What do you want to be when you grow up?

Before Christmas last year, my daughter, Jordan, told me she was going to Asia. I said, “well, that is fantastic!” But, inside I was full of apprehension and fear. After all, she is my daughter and was 24 at the time. She has lived and traveled extensively abroad. Yet, I suspect a father’s concern will always be present regardless of how old his children are.

I also thought that her excursion would be rather short. It was about 3-weeks before Christmas, and I assumed she would be home for the holidays. Well, we know what assumptions can do. When I asked when she planned to be back, she explained that she would be home in May or June. Six months? Are you kidding, I thought to myself.

A few days later she was off for the adventure of a lifetime. Her six months in Asia took her to places that many of us only dream of visiting. She went to Thailand, India, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and many islands in between. As you can imagine, she saw some of the world’s most beautiful sites. But, if you were to ask her what she admired most, she would tell you it was the beautiful people that occupy the lands she visited.

Asia has a rich and ancient culture steeped in diverse religions, and ethnicities. Many people who call Asia home live a much simpler life. By American standards, most are destitute. Jordan visited a village where the goal for children is to learn English. This goal is so they can attract American tourist to the town. Jordan stayed in one of those villages for a week. She paid “momma” about 30 dollars for her stay.

After Jordan returned, I interviewed her during my weekly Fields’ Philosophy program. I asked her about her favorite places to visit, favorite activities and food. During the interview, I could sense a calmness or peace about Jordan. The trip had changed her. For some reason, I asked her if she thought the destitute people in Asia were happier than Americans. And, her response was a resounding “yes.” She explained that the people she met would love to come to America, to have a passport with the American stamp. But, she was confident that they were a happier people.

She went on to say that in America “we work to live at 65.” That may be one of the most profound statements that I have ever heard.

In a couple of weeks, schools will be opening their doors across America. At some point, teachers will ask their students, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The children will excitedly respond with a firefighter, policeman, a teacher like you, doctor, pilot and many more noble causes.

We associate growing up with a job or career. And, rightfully so. Yet, if you think about Jordan’s statement of “working to live at 65”, it hardly seems like a path to ultimate happiness.

Figuring out what we want to be when we grow doesn’t have to be one and done. Jordan will likely live to be 100. Her time is finite, but her opportunities are not. And neither are your opportunities. So, let me ask you, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

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