Things that I think and do
I’m not sure I’ve ever asked a child what they want to be when they grow up. Partly because I know I’d rarely be entertained by funny answers like “road sign designer” or “elastic band elasticity measurer”, and partly because it’s just an inane question. It’s also because I manage to avoid engaging in conversation with children.
Equally, I don’t remember ever being asked. No doubt when I was 8 or 9 I would have gamely said I wanted to be a footballer or a Jedi, but to be honest it wasn’t a big enough part of my formative years for me to recollect much.
I’m glad I’ve also erased the “look how big you’ve grown!” remark from my childhood memories – no doubt like most kids I’d rather have played with my Lego than keep tabs on how tall I was becoming (or not, in my case).
It must be this lack of amateur career advice on the part of my elders that means I currently have little or no idea what it is I want to do when I grow up, even at the age of 22. And this is the age where it starts to get slightly worrying.
To be fair I’m not sure I can lay all the blame for my lack of career ambition at the feet of my family. After all, it’s my future that I have such little idea about, and as wonderful as my parents are they can’t decide for me (although they’ve had a few attempts at it). I’m also by no means having a teenage whine and pouring out excuses.
It’s fairly normal for people of my sort of age to have little idea of what they want to do for a job. I think that unless you have a useful and prodigious aptitude for something from a young age (like firefighting, or Formula 1 driving, or brain surgery) it gets more and more difficult to know what you want to spend most of your adult life doing.
One thing I’ve always found puzzling is the demand on students of 16 or 17 years old to choose their university courses. I understand that the degree you take doesn’t translate into a future career, but even asking kids to decide how they’ll spend the next three or four years – and in which new city – seems quite a heavy responsibility to pass on.
I chose my course largely based on what I was good at and how interested I was rather than it having any particular job prospects (I had initially decided on Law, but then discovered I wasn’t all that good at arguing a coherent case – perhaps you can tell already). My BA in History and French will leave me with few degree-based career options, meaning I’ll have to go into a different area unless I want to become a researcher or a professional holidayer in France.
This can’t be a new phenomenon. My dad studied Law and then ended up working as an insurance broker, and my mum did politics and finished doing the same job – and I doubt it’s restricted just to my parents. On this evidence I could end up being a health and safety official or something equally boring.
I also grew up with a quite rigid view of the conventional path through education. I’ve never really thought about the concept of putting off study by travelling or working or volunteering with orphaned elephants in Thailand.
But when I didn’t get the results to go to university and ended up taking a gap year it wasn’t the end of the world. And now I’m faced with my last year of university and the prospect of having to get a job (probably as an accountant or something totally unrelated to history), it’s not such a terrible idea to put it off again.
Just so you know, my future plans involve a vague idea of carrying on with orchestral music or getting a graduate job somewhere undefined as yet. With my new laissez-faire view on employment I should surely just find something I really want to do and ignore the practical obstacles in my way.
Then again, I can put all of this off until I grow up.