Arielle Fischer, features editor
Every child at least once in their life has been asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Even more so, adults seem to ask this question ad nauseam. While older people may see this question as harmless, or even helpful in determining a child’s goals, the damages are severe and seem to go unnoticed. This needs to end.
For one, it’s too early to ask this question. People are so fascinated with potential that they forget to live in the moment and experience life firsthand. We are so anxious about the future that we neglect the present, and not just in our life, but other people’s. Let kids be kids. Adulthood will come when it comes; there’s no need to rush into it from the moment a child is born.
Rushing into adulthood can make children feel like their youth is meaningless, that the only value and importance in their life comes from when they are older. How many kids have you heard say “I want to be a grown-up now!” I know I speak for countless individuals when I say if I could go back to my childhood mindset and innocence, I would in a heartbeat. Asking kids at an early age about their future essentially strips them away from being a child and experiencing life through new eyes.
It sickens me how quickly parents spring this question on their youngsters. It’s as if they want to see them win before they even learn how to play the game. For example, take college athletes. Almost every athlete I’ve met says something like: “I’ve played since I was three,” or “My mom forced me to do it when I was little,” or “My parents thought it would be good for me and I ended up staying with it.”
However, I have never once heard an athlete say they wanted to be something since they were young, and their parents fulfilled that wish. I don’t know if it’s about living vicariously through your children, or just plain getting them off your backs to have time to yourself. It seems wrong to me that kids are forced into something because their parents enjoy it, or they think it would be “fun.” Let the child decide what is “fun” or not, I beg you.
Not only that, but there are also extremely neglected consequences for the “What do you want to be?” mentality on adolescents. At 18, you should not have to plan your entire career. You are still young, fresh out of high school, and only an “adult” by law. You don’t know much about yourself yet, nor how the world works, so why should you have to figure out your entire life? Every year, kids are herded into school auditoriums to listen to mind-numbing speeches about majors and colleges. But along the way, perhaps we misunderstood the purpose of higher education.
I don’t believe college is meant to be self-explanatory. You shouldn’t know precisely who you are or what you’ll do when you walk through the doors freshman year. College is not a manufacturing system to turn children into worker bees. College is a place of learning and discovery, both in identity and academics. We come through these gates to find who we are and who we will be, and sometimes it’s completely different from who our parents desired or what we trained years for. So why all the rush? Why all the questioning? Let discovery take the wheel, for once.