Never ask a child what they want to be when they grow up

Creator unknown

Creator unknown

“Where has the year gone?!” exclaim many of us, as Christmas decorations twinkle at us from high street shop windows (okay, they’ve actually been there since August) and we start reflecting on 10 fleeting months.

But for many people, especially university and college students, this is just the beginning of the rest of their lives. Chances are, days upon days were spent scouring through books, deciding on the perfect subject of study, along with soul-searching as though they were lost at sea.

But how do we choose a career that best fits us? And are there any lessons from childhood that have helped reveal our ideal career match, or made it a complete stranger?

Being made redundant was great. Well, I am only speaking for myself. It led me to a crossroads and forced me to choose which way I wished to continue.

I could have carried on with the same career in Travel, gone back to Marketing or rekindled my pipe dream of being a Singer. But I had already started thinking about what had remained a constant throughout my life from childhood: writing; a love of hearing the stories people tell; a fascination with news; a desire to understand and interpret the world beneath the world around me.

Confirmation of a right decision

That’s when I applied to study for an MA in Print and Online Journalism. And a year later, I have an MA with Distinction as one of my greatest achievements as well as confirmation of a right decision. But it was a choice I had made when I was a child, but did not see it through.

On my Facebook writer’s page, I once shared that at the age of five, my Dad had asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Without hesitation, and having already created handmade books complete with bar codes drawn on the back, I said: “A writer.” But then, I started moving in different career directions and got lost. It took a while to find my way again, but better late than never, as ‘they’ say.

In response to this, a Facebook friend of mine and Zen Master, Umi Tom Lodge, who has since suddenly and sadly passed away, said:

“Hi Monica, It was not that your Dad asked you, what you wanted to be when you grow up, that you became a writer. It was his asking you this question, that stopped you from being a writer right away. His question put you into the future and set you on an unreal path of fulfilling other’s ideals. Never ask a child, “What do you want to be or do when you grow up.” If left alone the child is already doing what they are. They are also in the real world of now, here, having fun and being, not living in some fantasy future. So good that you are now writing. Umi”

At first, I thought his words were a little harsh. But then I realised this friend had given me the kind of advice you receive once in a lifetime and puts life into perspective.

Perfection of childhood

His thoughts echoed the teachings of the late Spiritual Teacher, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, better known as Osho. I listened to one of his many spellbinding, recorded talks at his retreat in Pune, India.

In one discourse, he had said that asking a child what they want to be when they grow up means you are instilling in him or her the idea that they are not good enough and need to become something or someone else; someone or something better than what they already are.

But in actual fact, children are perfect. And once we are adults, many of us try to return to the purity of our childhood mental state.

For me, it was as though I was tracing a treasure map backwards to the beginning, to the age of five, finding out which way I really wanted to go and what I truly desired to discover in the end.

Parents, school teachers and anyone with young relatives should take heed of this advice. Although we have children’s best interests at heart, maybe it is best to let them be and let them live. We are closest to our true selves in childhood and that intuition should be trusted to lead us in a direction we would be happy to go in.

Picasso once said: “All children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up.”

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