Earlier this week, whilst out shopping for new products to review for you lovely people, I overheard a conversation between a little girl and a lady that I can only assume was her mum. It was a conversation that I can guarantee has been pretty much repeated across the country, with nearly everyone of us having been asked or having asked the same question- “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. As thousands of children return to school and millions of young people enter further or higher education this month, it’s a question that is as pressing as ever. Hearing this conversation, listening as the little girl excitedly explaining her dream to be a vet, I began to think about my own experience of the famed question and began to wonder if I had ever really known.
When I think about the difficult, career-based decisions I’ve made over the years the one thing that does strike me, is the lack of a grand plan and until I earlier this year, I’m pretty confident that there wasn’t one. As I look back on my decision to go to university, the course I chose and my decision to start but also leave my teaching course, the one similarity is that they all very much came about by accident. It seems incredibly fitting that then, that my career in politics was also something I discovered on a whim.
I realised I loved politics, whilst releasing I hated teaching and one ambition therefore conveniently replaced another. I had left university with a decent history degree but a career in history didn’t really interest me and as someone that was regularly described as “good with kids” it had seemed like the obvious choice. I was completely wrong and quickly realised it but nonetheless, as a true Brit, I forced myself to carry on regardless and a period of depression followed.
When I think about the shy, self-conscious, quiet little girl I once was, a career in politics seems the least likely of all the professions and yet perhaps that’s the reason I loved it. I had gone from that nervous child to a confident woman that was happy to express her opinion and make public speeches. Politics represented how I had grown and changed as a person.
The lesson of this story is that perhaps sometimes we ask the wrong question of our young people and should be asking them instead what they love, and that sometimes it takes one epic mistake to realise the answer. The most important, it doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s never too late follow your heart.
Were you asked this question growing up?