When We Grow Up

10/20/2011 09:36 am ET | Updated Dec 20, 2011

What do you want to be when you grow up? Looking back at my kindergarten drawings, I wanted to be a policeman. Well ... I'm sure I meant policewoman. I thought protecting people meant I was strong; I thought chasing down criminals meant I was tough and super awesome. But now, my high school mind realizes that such a job has a large time commitment, actual danger risk, and a nonrealistic income suitable for my desired future. Now, as an adolescent, I take tentative steps into what the world calls adulthood, as well as all the responsibilities and decisions that come with it. Farewell, childhood dreams.

We've been asked what we want to be since we were children, through simple drawings in elementary school to extensive surveys in high school. A few of our peers know what they want out of life -- they've found their profession, their calling, their passion. Based on this feeling, our lucky friends have chosen their school, their major, their career -- a direction to their future. But what about the rest of us? What becomes of the many whose passion is submerged within ourselves? Where is the inspiration we're lacking that will help us discover our purpose? Career counselor Dan King informs us, "Today, many people in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and even 70s are still trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up. Oh sure, there are those who knew what they wanted to do since they were old enough to walk. But they're rare. The rest had to figure it out by trial and error. Their careers happened by accident."

But waiting until we're all 30 (when we're expected to take care of ourselves and most likely, others as well) to figure out our future is not going to give us time to go through the education and preparation to pursue that future. So to this widespread dilemma, I propose a solution: GET OUT. Volunteer, meet new people, take college classes that interest you! Do out-of-the-ordinary things -- no, not like streaking or acting insane -- like offer to help plan out an ASB activity if you want to try being a leader or being a guide at a discovery science center if you want to understand how our wonderful world works. All these efforts to familiarize ourselves with the many aspects of the realm around us only add to our already-amazing beings. Every person you meet, every activity you plan, every exercise you put yourself through, all contributes to the knowledge and experience you have.

Put yourself out there; take the efforts to discover where your future is going so you can actively pursue it. Experience all that life has to offer, so that you can participate in living. I agree with John Lennon -- when I grow up, I want to be happy. But I'm smart enough to know that pursuing the abstract idea of happiness goes hand-in-hand with having a passion for my future career as well as direction. So by taking advantage of what the world has to offer, putting in effort to better myself, being open to inspiration, and actively seeking the direction of my future, I'm going to be happy. Are you?