09/06/2012 09:21 am ET Updated Nov 06, 2012

When We Grow Up

It was nearly a decade ago that I took my first steps into kindergarten. It was almost a whole 10 years ago that my life went from fun and games to school and work. I went from my nursery school drop-off to the threatening hallways of my elementary school. This adjustment from baby to big girl was one that seemed life-changing, a self-defining journey filled with mistakes, lessons, friendships, tears, laughs, smiles and maybe a few more tears. Kindergarten was the big league. Fast-forward over a few grades, a few turning points, and some minor milestones, and you will find the present-day Lily. Me -- a high schooler. A blogger. A writer. A friend. A teenager. A young journalist. A learner. A listener. A speaker.

I am still continuing on my eternal journey through my educational career, still fearful of change, still feeling my way through the unpaved roads. Looking back at the juvenile years I spent meandering my way through that first floor hallway, I don't recall much. I remember a well-deserved trip I took into the principal's office. I reminisce on the day when I was asked to bring the most important person in my life to school, and I chose my uncle. Very few vivid memories come to mind. However, there was that one question that proved effective -- one question that I will never fail to lose sight of. The one question we are all asked as little kids with a humorous tone; the question that no kindergartener can answer with certainty. That question is: "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

I can't remember the answer I gave my teachers, but the question stuck with me. It was an idea that would never leave me after that very moment. Every year since, I have been asked this same frightening question. Still there is no definite answer. But each year, it is asked with a bit more seriousness. It now carries a bit more meaning than it did back when I sat in my little blue chair in that vibrant room. "An astronaut!" a young kindergarten boy shouted. That's the only answer I remember! Press fast-forward on this boy's life just a couple of years and currently he is now a maturing 15-year-old in the hectic jungle commonly referred to as freshman year. I Facebook messaged him the other day and simply asked, "Do you still have the wish to become an astronaut?" His confusion overpowered him as he responded "Lil, how could you possibly remember that?" His answer had struck something within me. Maybe it was his sure fullness. Maybe it was his high hopes. Maybe it was the fantasy I saw in this aspiration. It took a few years to recognize, but the lesson I had learned was that we don't need to know what our plans are for 15 years from now.

We don't have to know what we'll be doing in a year, a month, a week, or even a day. There is a reason this little would-be astronaut is not walking on the moon right now. He is too busy today to worry about tomorrow. As young kindergarten students, we have not lived nearly enough. We have not seen. We have not done. We have not heard. The answers we present to our teachers in response to the big question are meaningless. There is a reason why those answers change. There is a reason why I can't even recall what mine was! Jobs don't define us. Jobs aren't what we are going to BE when we grow up.

It is lessons that define us. Time defines us. Choices define us. It is the moments we live through that determine who we will be as we age. Live in the now. Cherish today. Tomorrow will come soon enough, but not yet. The "todays" of the world directly affect the tomorrows we plan to live. Never fail to remember the gratitude we must feel for being gifted the opportunity to be living right now, in this very moment. These will all be stories someday, but right now we are alive! Each moment we breathe, we are taking one step closer to the moving target of "growing up." Don't concern yourself with what may or may not happen, what you may or may not do, or with who you may or may not be! This moment will come only once. Appreciate your childhood. Now is not the time to make concrete decisions. Now is the time to test the waters. To experiment. To live. To create error. To answer, and then not remember. To question. To ask. To NOT know what you are going to do as you grow. The knowledge you gain today may truly effect what you end up doing tomorrow, or next month, or next year, or in the next decade. You are touched in the moments when you least expect it. So look up from your drowning sorrow of confusion. Realize what is, and live for today!

Next time I'm asked, "Lily, what is it that you wish to be when you grow up?" Without a quiver in my voice, I will say with extreme confidence, "I don't know."

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