It is always interesting to hear how a child responds to this question. I remember wanting to be several different things over the years. At one point, I wanted to be a gymnast. Never mind that I could hardly do a handstand, and my cartwheels were horrendous. I supposed I had been inspired by watching the Olympics. Of course, nothing ever came of that desire. I think I also wanted to be a dancer at different times during my childhood. I remember getting a pair of tap shoes and clicking away in a very uncoordinated manner on the slab of concrete my grandfather’s wood stove sat on. Nothing ever came of that desire, either. (Thank God.)
I also remember wanting to be a chemist after I spent hours mixing together some of my grandmother’s old spices that she stored on the shelves in her kitchen. One time, I tried to grow some kind of seeds on a wet sponge. They sprouted a little, but shortly died. For some reason, I’d had it in my head that I could try to grow the seeds and inter-breed them into new and exciting plants. I suppose I had read a bit about basic genetics in science at school.
One interesting thing happened when I was about ten. I had attended a certain vacation Bible school (VBS) that summer, and the main topic was missionaries. I believe they mostly talked about Hudson Taylor, a missionary to China. Towards the end of the week, perhaps on the last day, I remember the leaders asking the kids if any of them wanted to be missionaries, and to come up to the front. I went up, along with several other kids, and they prayed for us. I went home really excited that day and I told my mom that I wanted to be a missionary. I’m not sure how long the excitement lasted, but it faded fairly quickly and I didn’t think about that again for years.
When I was a freshman in high school (while I was still in Alaska), I took a class about career preparation. One of our assignments was to list a few occupations we were interested in and then do some research about them. I know I chose several, but I can’t remember them all. I did, however, look into Chemist and Geneticist. However, when I realized a small amount of what would be involved with those professions, I quickly lost interest.
As I prepared to go to college, I had to choose what to major in. At that point in my life, I didn’t know what I wanted to do/be, but I certainly had a good idea of what I DIDN’T want. Math, science, law, and medicine were certainly out, as well as most vocational-type careers. I never cared for those things. I also wasn’t going to even attempt anything like engineering. I started out with the General Business major because I figured I’d at least be able to get some kind of job when I got out of college. I struggled through the first year, but when I started the second year and got into “real” business classes, like accounting and economics, I was just done.
I decided to just major in English because I had enjoyed writing my whole life. I couldn’t think of any other major I could stand. I did want to do something with computers, but there was too much math and science involved because it was a B.S. degree. And I wasn’t good enough at art to try to do graphic design or anything of that nature. I also chose to minor in communication, which is another name for journalism at that school. I didn’t care for journalism itself, but there were several computer classes I wanted to take, like web design and publication editing.
I quickly found out that I didn’t like English, either. I liked writing, but only a very specific kind of writing. I did NOT like writing papers, and I loathed literature. Especially writing papers about literature. Oh my God. However, I stuck it out, and I got a B.A. in English Writing. I did learn some very valuable things that still help me today, but overall, the only thing I really liked about majoring in English was the creative writing classes, specifically the novel writing workshop. That was my favorite class, but I only got to take it once as a senior.
After I graduated, I just got into office work, and that is what I did for the next several years.
I am going to pause there because after everything I’d ever thought about doing, I made it out of college with a degree but no plan for my life. I still didn’t know what I wanted to be or do. I was okay with office work, but I generally found it boring. I wanted to do something exciting, but I just didn’t know what would be exciting to me. I already had been writing all my life, and I knew better than to try to just write full-time. I tried taking all kinds of personality and career assessments, both during high school and college, but they had all been pretty much inconclusive. I got different results every time, and a lot of the suggested careers didn’t interest me at all.
One other thing to note is that during my last semester of college, I got saved, and I completely changed. I was suddenly not interested in many of the same things I had been before. (I’m generally referring to some of the geeky obsessions and stuff like metal music.) If it’s possible, I felt even more lost. I suppose I didn’t know who I was anymore. There was the whole spiritual side of that, where I was learning that my identity is in Christ, but I mean I just didn’t know what to do with myself in general.
I tolerated office work, but I didn’t like it.
Then I started to get into Bible school. I won’t go into all the details of how I ended up there, but I dropped everything and quit my job to attend one in Atlanta. I didn’t work while I was there, but I made an awesome discovery. Someone asked for my help with proofreading, and they inspired me to become an editor. I had never thought of it, but when that person offered to hire me as their editor, I realized that it was a dream come true.
I actually ended up doing two years of Bible school even though I had been afraid of the second year. During the summer break, I came back home and took a “research” job. It was primarily data entry, but I did end up doing some research here and there. It was an okay job, but it was only temporary. I also was starting to work on editing, and I even picked up a second client through a friend’s referral. Then towards the end of second year, I had a brilliant idea: I wanted to start an editing business. I wasn’t sure exactly how it would work, but it seemed like the thing to do.
Towards the end of second year, my class had to go on a foreign mission trip in order to graduate. That was one of the main reasons I had been afraid to do second year in the first place, but it turned out not being a bad experience. All the preparation eased me into what I would need to do. I went to Costa Rica, and it was a truly awesome trip. However, aside from just the general trip itself, something specific happened that was really interesting.
One afternoon after my class had been in Costa Rica for a few days, a guy came to visit us at the hostel we were staying at. I’d seen him around and I had just assumed he was some kind of pastor that was working with us. I honestly can’t remember exactly who he was, but I do remember his face. Anyway, that afternoon he prophesied over everyone in my group. When he came to me, he said that I was called to be a missionary. At the time, I remember just knowing that it was true, especially since I had been thinking a lot about that one day in vacation Bible school when I was 10. I don’t know exactly when or how it will come about, but I am sure that I will do mission work someday. It just seems like it won’t be anytime soon.
Also during second year of Bible school, I had a brilliant idea: I wanted to start an editing business. I wasn’t sure exactly how it would work, but it seemed like the thing to do. That summer, I didn’t work because I was planning on going back to school for a third year. They were going to do a new leadership program, and the final project, so to speak, was to start some kind of business or church. I wanted to use my editing business idea for the project. The program ended up falling through, though, so I just stayed home. However, after not being able to find a job quickly, I decided that I wanted to just do the editing full-time anyway. So that’s what I did, and I am still doing it. Of course, things have changed since I started, but I’m still doing basically the same thing.
Now that brings me back to my point. I never imagined that this is what I would be doing with my life. I know that God has more planned for me, but I just haven’t discovered it yet. However, I am sure that for this season of my life, I am doing what I need to be doing. I also understand that editing is the main focus I should have. I can do other things, but those things are not my main gift. I’ve even come to realize that writing is not my main gift (or at least it isn’t right now). I know I’m gifted in that area, but it isn’t the primary focus. For one thing, I only enjoy writing in a very specific way: noveling.
I generally don’t enjoy writing to just to write. I am stretching myself in keeping up with this blog. I have had to write a lot of different things throughout my life, especially while I was in high school and college. I’m not necessarily bad at writing (unless it’s literary analysis), but I just don’t like most kinds of writing. The only thing I really like is novel writing. There’s just something about crafting a story with a fictional plot and speculative elements. I also tend to go for more of an epic storyline than just a short story. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I really enjoy writing a long science fiction story. When I try to write other things, I usually have trouble. I manage if I have to, but I don’t enjoy it.
Here’s the thing: I still feel like I haven’t “grown up,” so to speak. That may come across as self-deprecating, but I’m not intending it to be. I honestly still feel like a “kid” most of the time, in the way that I feel like I’m still searching for what I want to “be.” As I said, I know that for this specific time in my life I’m doing what I need to be doing, but I’m not sure if I will be doing this forever. I don’t know if my focus will change later on, or if I’ll just add other things to the mix on a more permanent basis. I just know that whenever I’ve tried to look for another job, not only does it not work out, but I will end up getting an influx of business and inquiries regarding my editing services. It’s like God is telling me that I need to just stick with editing for now.
I want to make a quick distinction between what I do and who I am. When I was younger, I didn’t understand the distinction, but now I do. What I do does not define who I am. I know I have been given specific gifts and talents, and I intend to use them, but they are just tools for me to accomplish my calling in life. And again, it seems like I have only discovered a part of my calling, and that is editing. (Of course there’s the missionary thing, too, but that is kind of on the back burner right now.) I am certain there is more for me to discover as I go along. I will just do what I know to do for now.
I am not entirely sure what I want to do when I “grow up,” but for now I know that I need to keep editing. I also will definitely stick with my own writing, but I’m not going to try to make a job out of it. I want to just focus on the story that is inside me, as opposed to just trying to create a bunch of different things all the time. That just seems like it would be a major drain on me. However, no matter what my circumstances are right now, I know that God has great plans for my life. I can’t wait to find out what they are!
So, do you remember what you wanted to be/do when you “grew up?” Did you have some creative answers as a child? Did you actually follow through with those dreams? If not, what held you back or derailed you? Are you doing something today that you never expected to do, but you’ve discovered that it’s a “dream come true?” Please leave a comment below, or feel free to send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Faces from the St Patricks Day Parade” by Jeffrey under CC BY-ND 2.0