The struggle of the question: “What are you going to do when you grow up?” 

Issue 25: February 28, 2024

The question “What are you going to do when you grow up?” has always been a stressful question for me, and I know that lots of other people feel the same way. When I was little, I wanted to be a popstar or a princess, and later it was a lawyer or a teacher. It did not take until I was about 14 to know what I wanted to do in my life. I knew that I loved theatre and that I couldn’t see myself doing anything else, but I wasn’t sure what I actually wanted to do as a career. Coming from a childhood of having parents and grandparents work as teachers, always being in advanced classes, honor roll, and the leader in a group, I felt like I needed to have a plan for my career. 

After a lengthy process of touring colleges, applying, and trying to decide on a college, I ended up choosing McMurry to be my home. I thought that I had heard the question of what am I going to do when I grew up enough times in my life, and that surely it would end here, but boy was I wrong. I have been at college for not even a full year and I can’t count the number of times I have been asked what my plans are after college. My answer is still, “I’m not sure yet. I just know I want it to be related to theatre. Teaching theatre is an option but I’m not 100 percent certain.”

I asked other McMurry students and Theatre majors what their thoughts are when someone asks them, “What are you going to do when you grow up?” or “What are your plans after college?” Some students had simple answers such as going to medical school after college, getting a bachelor’s in nursing then being a CRNA or a travel nurse, or getting a master’s degree and teaching theatre in college.

Other answers were more in-depth, such as McMurry student Lauren Scott who answered, “I feel anxious because I’m not sure my answer will be the answer people are looking for. I don’t have an answer, more of an explanation for how I intend to apply my degree, and I’m not sure if others will consider that a ‘real’ answer.”

Theatre Education Major Aubri Prestridge had an answer similar to my thoughts. She said, “My first reaction is: please don’t ask me that. When most people hear I’m a first- generation student they think I must have this elaborate plan and all these goals, but in reality, I just didn’t want to be as broke as my family was when I was a kid. Most of the time my plan is to teach theatre, but everyone always says there are better jobs than teaching, or that I can make more money doing something else. So honestly my answer most of the time is whatever life hands me after graduation is what I’ll do.”

If you have seen Eclipse, the third movie in The Twilight Saga, then you know Anna Kendrick’s Valedictorian speech her character gives at graduation. It is an iconic scene that is very memorable for viewers. In this speech, she discusses how we are constantly asked throughout our childhood and young adult life what we want to do when we grow up, but the truth is that nobody really knows. She talks about how this is the time in your life to make mistakes, change your mind, and change it again because nothing is permanent. She closes the speech with, “So, make as many mistakes as you can, that way someday when they ask what we want to be, we won’t have to guess—we’ll know.”

Even though it is sometimes hard for me to admit, it is truly okay to not know what you want to do. If you are struggling with this as many other people are, just remember that it is YOUR life, so do what you need and want! Try not to think about what other people think, and just remember that you can always say you are still deciding or that you are focusing on your college career at the moment.