What do you want to be when you grow up?

By Mary Ellen Shaw

A child isn’t usually very old before someone asks, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I think just about every young boy on our street wanted to be a fireman at one time or another. The fact that city schools often arranged a tour of the fire station probably gave that career choice a bit of a boost.

I remember that five of us who were childhood friends wanted to be either nurses or teachers. As it turned out those careers were exactly the ones chosen by all of us. However, none of the neighborhood boys became firemen!

But many of us didn’t know any more what we wanted to be at 18 than we did at age 5. For that matter, when are we ever truly “grown up?” There is a “kid” in all of us and that’s a good thing.

When you are in high school, you usually can’t wait to get out. For some students the desire to earn money and never see the inside of a classroom has great appeal. However, many years later they might realize that either specialized training or a college degree is needed, either to increase their wages or advance in their chosen field.
Sometimes it takes awhile to figure out what career is the best fit for us. I have friends who were a part of the business world until they were in their 40s. They left their professions to go to nursing school and remained in that field until they retired.

It’s quite an accomplishment at that age to give up what you know best, enroll in college and learn something totally new. However, you have learned a lot about life by then, which would help a nurse to better understand the challenges that patients and their families are experiencing. My friends who became nurses in middle age are now retired but they loved what they were doing and had no regrets about making the change.

Whether you are one of the people who switched careers later in life or know someone who did, I think the lesson to be learned is that it’s okay to not know at 18 what we want to do with our lives. The important thing is to find your passion and follow it no matter your age.

Sometimes the “subject matter” itself has more appeal than the profession. I have a friend who went to school to be a beautician and ended up spending most of her working life as an administrative assistant. Hairdressing became a “second career,” giving her the best of both worlds!

For me the love of Latin in high school was the reason for selecting it as a college major. There is not much you can do with a Latin degree except teach. As I mentioned in an earlier column, Latin was being dropped from most schools about the time I got my degree. Once I no longer had the opportunity to teach Latin I realized that the “subject matter” had a greater appeal for me than the “profession.” From 1970 on I was a part of the business world.

When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s furthering, education at night wasn’t an option in Rutland. In today’s world a local person who wants to work during the day and attend school at night has great opportunities for doing just that. It’s never too late to explore the choices of what you can be when you “grow up.”

If you are a senior citizen and your career days are over, perhaps you can share your skills with the younger generation. If you are someone who wonders what it would have been like to go to college, why not find out? You are never too old to learn, so check out your options and do what makes you happy. Many courses can be audited if you don’t want the pressure of earning a grade.

Recently, when I was in line at a local store, I overheard a gentleman telling another fellow that he loves what he is doing. He said he gets up every morning and wants to go to work. The person he was talking to said he wished he felt that way.

I guess the latter gentleman doesn’t know what he wants to be when he “grows up.” There are many options available locally at Stafford Technical Center, CCV, CSJ and Castleton University. Everyone has fantastic opportunities for finding out what they want to be when they “grow up.”

So go for it!

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