I broke a record this year.
For the first time since I was 10-years-old and tried to entice Bruce Jenner to be my pen pal, I have sustained a pen pal relationship longer than a few lines. Thanks to a teacher friend, pen palism has been a thing in my world since last fall. It’s going so well, I have another person who needs a letter and I’d love your help.
This new pen pal/sixth grader doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up. In a school full of future teachers, doctors, astronauts, farmers, zookeepers, triathletes, soldiers, magicians and artists, there is at least one person who isn’t quite sure about his special purpose.
When I was in school, I envied the kids who KNEW what they wanted to do and who they wanted to become. And the girls who rode horses. I wanted to that, too. And be a gymnast…a physicist…archaeologist. Just about any curious adventuring career I learned about, became interesting enough to “want to be a ________ when I grow up.”
That song still plays in the background.
I was amazed at how secure and sure these people were who just knew themselves and their interests to claim with certainty their intent for their future selves. These people still amaze me. Laser-like lock on target and off they go. I, however, tend to take the circuitous long way home and look at the pups or sun or people in the park.
At one time, the not-knowing crushed me. After scads of interest tests (anyone else take the Kuder interest test that required the student to poke the answers with a stick pin?) I learned conclusively I was destined to become president, a judge, a journalist, a social worker, a religious leader, a librarian, a teacher…whatever.
Along the way, I discovered that not knowing was okay. That not knowing allowed me the room and freedom to keep exploring, meet new people and try new things. Having the posture of not knowing, fostered the attitude of learning and wonder and taking-risks-because-of-crazy-hope.
Not knowing opened up a world – a UNIVERSE – of opportunity. As long as I made my best decision about the next thing, I was good.
So all of those random high school classes I took and the school clubs ? Yep. I use that stuff each week and often each day. Debate, research, writing, editing, conceptualizing, photography, service, swimming…okay, not swimming. Randomness and curiosity has served me well.
The kids who were so certain about who they were going to be, narrowed their focus and their journey ahead. That is a mentality I’d like in a brain surgeon, but not in a writer, engineer or teacher.
The rest of us, schleps, either keep learning and turning over rocks to discover what might lie beneath or we cease to grow.
We stay a bit wigged out and observant – looking for signs of our trail – that sometimes we find a way for which we could never have hoped.
This is where your insight is golden:
What would you tell this person?
How would you encourage “the kid who has no idea who he wants to become”?
What wouldn’t you say?
I’ve a list of questions about what he likes and who he admires and what is he willing to work hard to become to ask and a notebook purchased especially for him (it’s got a sparky pup on the front!)
Sunday night is my moment to finalize this note.
We have the opportunity to encourage. To listen in a way. To send our best hopes and hand off a few tools we wished we’d had each time someone asked, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
How do you want to be remembered?
Is money and/or safety important enough to work so much you miss time with friends and family?
Do you like math?
What do you want your family, friends and community to say of you when you are gone?
Too much? Let me know.
And thank you friends, for joining me in this next pen pal-awesome adventure.
Derring do and all that.