Every kid has been asked the same question at some point throughout their young life. What do you want to be when you grow up?
I loved this question. I would think “What is possibly the most awesome thing I could ever do?” I put quite a bit of thought into it, until I finally knew. I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be a superhero who was also a veterinarian.
My costume would be me with a stethoscope around my neck and my superhero name was going to be “VetMan.”
I was a cute kid, but obviously not a creative one. I answered the question above countless times. But oddly enough, every time I answered, I answered it a little bit differently. As I grew older, I began to tweak my answer every so often as to what I wanted to be when I grew up.
When we ask this question to children, we expect outrageous answers. We expect them to be creative and to shoot for the stars as to what they could want out of life. So when kids tell us they want to be a rockstar, a princess or a superhero that just so happens to be a veterinarian, you never question it.
At that point in life, they dream harder than they ever will again. They will be able to wish and want with no real inclination of how many obstacles they will come across in the following years.
This question changed when I became an adult. It may be the same words in the same order, but they don’t mean the same thing. Now this question has turned into something along the lines of, “What can you feasibly achieve while regarding your income, social class and your education?” This makes reality bite hard.
Knowing how bad I wanted to be an animal-saving superhuman and having to realize how incredibly impractical that option was is kind of soul-crushing. I drew out my costume numerous times, practiced what his signature might be like if I would have to sign any official superhero stuff and even practiced deep voices and chest postures in the mirror while announcing my signature line “I am VetMan.” The catchphrase is another example of my creative genius as a child.
I remember how close I felt to actually being VetMan when I grew up. Being told for years that I can be anything I wanted to be, only to be slapped with a cold slab of reality and realizing that wasn’t the case.
Our generation has learned to be afraid of asking the universe for what they want. This happens as that question changes meaning as we grow older. We begin to get embarrassed by our dreams.
All of a sudden, explaining to your friends that VetMan could actually be a superhero while also being a veterinarian was not nearly as cool as it used to be.
As we begin to become embarrassed of our dreams, we change them to something we know we can feasibly achieve. Why? We are told our whole lives that big dreams are bad. Those big dreams are big leaps that just might turn into big falls, so as a society, we begin to reject them.
We need to get back to dreaming big. Jim Carrey did the commencement speech at Maharishi University of Management, and during this speech he told a small tale about his father.
A tale of a man who wanted to be a famous comedian, but instead made the conservative choice to be an accountant who then lost his job when Jim was 12, leaving the family poor and struggling.
Jim Carrey then said, “When there is always the chance you can fail at what you don’t want to do, why not take the chance with something you actually do want to do?” These words are incredibly powerful, and I’m sure these words hit pretty close to home for several people. If you haven’t watched the video, I highly recommend watching it.
Jim Carrey also said in that speech that we make choices based on fear, but justified with practicality. We aren’t scared of achieving what we want, but of failing to do so. We spend our whole lives thinking “what if” as we punch the clock 9-5 daydreaming about what could have happened or almost happened.
It’s time to be brave. Don’t worry that big leaps could lead to big falls, but think about the big success that could be at the end of that leap. You miss every shot you don’t take.
Column by Zac Garrison, Senior from Franklin, Ky.