Mablene Krueger, chief operating officer of the Schaumburg Campus, standing in the grand stairs of the Auditorium Building

Recently, I watched a three-minute YouTube video from HiHo Kids called “100 Kids Tell Us What They Want to Be When They Grow Up.” I highly recommend it; it’s a smile-maker for sure! The video got me thinking…

As I listened to the children’s responses, I heard many careers that weren’t surprising, such as teacher, artist, actor, model, singer, police officer, lawyer, dancer and veterinarian. I also heard some responses that can only come from someone not confined (as we adults are) to reality, like pilot (or was it pirate) racer, pediatrician “so that I can wear rainbow sweatpants,” and mermaid doctor. Well, I think that’s what I heard, anyway.

Other, very real possibilities caught my attention, ones we wouldn’t have heard in the past. Examples are video game designer, YouTuber and Pokémon trainer (really? Is that a thing?). And then there’s my favorite of all: “whatever my Dad is.” When asked what that was, the child said, “I don’t know.” How awesome to want to be just like your dad!

Yes, this got me thinking: what do I want to be when I grow up? Until I was about 16, my life’s goal was to become a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. Wait, that was until about five years ago — once I neared 60, I realized I needed to give that one up. But I digress.

What I really wanted to be was a teacher. That’s not the important point. The point is why.

I knew I could help people; I knew I had an innate ability to help people believe in themselves and accomplish things they didn’t think they could. I was a teacher, but I haven’t focused full-time on being one in about 30 years. However, with every step I took after I left the classroom, I was able to accomplish the goals I had as a teacher.

But enough about me. What about you?

Let’s use some examples. You wanted to be a lawyer. Why? You thought it was glamorous? You wanted to wear a suit every day? Your mother told you that you argued too much? Or was it because you believe people deserve to be represented, or you believe in a society where people have rights and the right to defend their actions?

At the age of six, my brother told me that he wanted to own a grocery store so that he could “eat all the candy.” He doesn’t do that, but he is a successful car mechanic with his own business. He’s caring for his community, treating his customers right and providing a service for people he cares about. A grocery store owner in a small town would accomplish those same things.

Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek encourages people to “find your why,” the “purpose, cause or belief that drives every one of us.” Do you know your why? One way to consider your why is to try and remember your childhood dream.

So… what did you want to be when you grew up? Are you accomplishing it, either in that profession or another? If not, ask yourself two questions: Have your goals changed? If not, what can you do about them now?

Perhaps you wanted to be a veterinarian, and that’s not in the cards for many reasons. Do you have pets? Can you foster some animals? Perhaps you wanted to be a family counselor. Well, what’s stopping you? If it’s time and money, many colleges and universities are offering discounts to go back to school right now. And the need for people in this field has never been greater.

Let’s challenge ourselves to reflect on our lives, knowing that we’ve lived out our childhood dreams. Those dreams may not look exactly like they did when we were kids, but they can still be accomplished. In the words of one of the children in the YouTube video: “When I grow up, I’ll pick.” Choice is amazing; it’s stimulating; it’s liberating!

And by the way, I’m still trying to be just like my dad!

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