Introduction

What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I don’t think there was another question I was asked more often as a child. I still get that even now, only the “grow up” bit has been replaced with “graduate.” Or, if you’re the aunt who doesn’t like me all that much, you’ll replace “when” with “if.” Honestly, not my fault that your kid dropped out to be an (awesome) artist instead of a doctor. Geez.

We all face this question and its implications – what do we want to do with our lives? What do we want to commit a chunk of our life to? Oh, that dreaded word. Commitment. Added on top of our academic obligations, sleep and some semblance of a social life, this topic peeks its head up from our subconscious every so often and tells us to just decide, already.

I’ve decided. Ages ago actually.

At 5, I wanted to be a police woman. My uncle was a policeman. He was out saving people everyday. I wanted to do that too! Then I found out he almost got killed during a drug bust. Nevermind.

At 8, I wanted to be a fire woman. Then I knocked over a candle and instead of you know, putting out the fire, I cried and got mommy because, ow, the fire was hot.

At 12, I got into an argument with my grandmother and after I, if you’ll excuse my language, pwned, she said rather crossly, “If you like arguing so much, why don’t you become a lawyer?” That took my fancy and I was seriously considering a life as a beacon of justice, battling evil with wit and wisdom. Until I got a puppy.

So at 15, I wanted to be a veterinarian. My high school electives reflected that, and I volunteered at the only clinic that would take a kid not-yet-16. I spent a little over a year cleaning cages, feeding angry cats and sweeping fur off the floor. One day, the vet got me to act as his translator. He was Russian, spoke with an accent, and his clients were Chinese, who also spoke with an accent. That’s when I got to live the life of a vet for a few hours every week and I absolutely hated it. The only thing that he really did was give dogs and cats a check-up, and then he rested his leg on the table and read the newspaper while listening to the radio. Oh yeah, and once, he got to stick his finger inside the rear end of a dog that was constipated. Ewww. And monotonous. But mostly ewww.

I’ve been in limbo ever since.

It all sounds so negative, but really, it’s okay. Each time I find out something I don’t like, I actually find out what I don’t want to do. And that’s just as important as finding out what I do want to do.

A few weeks ago, I attended Careers in Psychology, a talk given by Dr. Jordan Peterson. If you have a chance to take any of his courses, do. Maps of Meaning has a retake rate of 100% on the Anti-Calendar, and Dr. Peterson himself is a four-time TVO-nominated Best Lecturer. I’m taking his Personality course, and I’ve got to say – good stuff.

Apart from finding out that I don’t want a career in academia (man, one day, through the process of elimination, I will find my calling), Dr. Peterson shared some insights that I think are applicable to everybody.

It’s about winning. Winning at life and winning at your life. You win by being smart and conscientious. It’s not about winning over a colleague, or a classmate, because if you want to compare, there will always be people who are smarter and who work harder than you (I know, ouch). You win by doing things that you love and doing them well.

Winning your life is to give meaning to your life. By doing something meaningful and fulfilling, your brain sends happy signals to itself and well, you are happy. In the end, that’s what we’re working for anyways, right? The direct or indirect goal of anything we do in life can really be traced back to making ourselves feel better, happier.

Dr. Peterson’s advice for achieving that was surprisingly simple. It boiled down to three seemingly unrelated things:

1) Find out what you want to do;

2) Eat breakfast (more protein; less sugar);

3) Wake up early, at the same time every day.

I know, it sounds too easy, right? The first one isn’t, okay, and I’m a walking testament (I agree with Lucy: explore). But apparently, there’s an online quiz where you spend 30 minutes answering questions and it will give you a list of careers you’d excel at based on your personality. As soon as I get the link I will share, because duuude, I want to know.

So why are the last two so important?

Eating breakfast starts your day with a jolt of fuel and waking up early maximizes your ability to take advantage of time. Waking up at the same time allows your body to form a habit and regulate itself and then you’re less prone to negative energy (hah, there’s the psychology bit!). Both help you to live life to the fullest.

One student then asked, “But what if you don’t like breakfast?” And you know what Dr. Peterson said?

“It doesn’t matter that you don’t like breakfast. I’m not telling you to like breakfast, I’m telling you eat it. Eat even if you’re not hungry. When you start seeing the benefits, then you’ll like breakfast!” In that case, viva la breakfast!

Rise and shine, dear readers.

– Cynthia

5 comments on “What do you want to be when you grow up?

  1. This post was thoroughly enjoyable.

    Except this:

    “1) Find out what you want to do”

    ~sigh~ Okay. See the thing is, if finding out what we want to do was that easy…nobody would need psychology anymore.

    I used to be one to always try and figure out my inner calling. What I want to do when I grow up. My purpose in life. My passion.

    All that jazz.

    But now, I realize that the more important thing is to learn to LIKE what you are doing AT THIS VERY MOMENT. It’s all too easy to look beyond the present and daydream about all that could be, about all that you CAN be, except if you’re not happy with who you are today and what you’re doing today, you might never get there. And being happy with the present doesn’t necessarily mean everything in life right now fits our criteria of “perfection”…I think it’s more about take from it what you can…you know, compromising a little, give life a bit of room to disappoint yet know that disappointments are not all that there is.

    I think ultimately, this entire thing…the present, the future, who we are, who we want to be, who we will be, how our lives will turn out…it’s always fluctuating. Nothing will ever be completely certain or set in stone, including how much we really know about what we’d want to do with our lives. I mean, even our personalities change a bit over time. Our values might be easily influenced by some major life-altering event. Our interests may actually have a lot to do with the kind of life we want to have. Our current skill sets might not necessarily fit the description of our dream jobs. And maybe the worst and most ridiculous (yet slightly probable) thing of all: there would be an apocalypse one day and all norms we are accustomed to will disappear.

    So under all these circumstances, maybe it’s not about who we’d want to be…but how to be the best of who we already are.

  2. i like it!
    good points. just one thing to say;
    i rather live happy trying hard for what i belive brings meaning into my life than make sence of what makes me unhappy every day.

  3. @Lucy: oh em gee, Lucy, your comment is as long as my post! Well, almost. *blows kiss* <3

    @midia: Thank you! I think you’re absolutely right – it’s important to live happy and meaningfully, and focus on the positive.

    @Tim: Thank you! 😀

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