Monday, 1 February 2010

Letter to myself aged seven

Dear you.

Well, actually, as you’re me, that should be “Dear me,” although I suspect that might make things a little confusing. Let’s keep it “you and me,” shall we?

So, 1977, then! I remember it well. Actually, some of the details are a little hazy, although I do recall fish fingers. Lots of fish fingers. You love fish fingers. However the volumes and frequency of fish fingers seem to reduce when you reach eight, for some reason. Shame, really.

Anyway, welcome from the future! 2010, to be exact. What’s that? Jetpacks and hovercars? Ah. Sorry, but I’m afraid the scale of change isn’t quite what you’re expecting. No, I haven’t been to any bases on the Moon. Although I did once spend six months working in Redditch, if that helps.

Actually, that’s what I’m contacting you about. No, not Redditch. Work. From about the age you are now, you start getting that question from relatives. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s a bit of a poser, isn’t it?

Right now you’re probably answering from one of the standards for seven-year-olds. Fireman, policeman, pilot, soldier. For a while you think about being an astronaut. Remember, though, you’re British, so I’m afraid that’s just not going to happen.

Next year you’ll do that thing that most boys do. You’ll look at what Dad does for a living and go, “that’s for me.” With infinite patience he’ll sit you down and tell you that while there’s nothing wrong with being an offset print manager, you might want to set your sights a little higher.

In a few years time you’ll be going to Grammar School and that’s when the serious thinking starts. At about age 15 the Careers Officer will get you and your classmates to look through the Index Cards of Destiny – each one a different profession. In a fit of teenage pique you simply pick the last one in the box and spend the next few months thinking seriously about becoming a Zoologist. This causes your parents a mixture of puzzlement and faint pride, until it comes to light that you have a real problem with insects.

For about two weeks in 1986 you’ll be convinced that you will take up music and be a rock and roll drummer. However, the lack of any discernable talent causes you to re-think this career path. It’s for the best, as your next-door neighbours joyfully agree.

As an aside, at the age of 18 you get really interested in computers and think it would be nice to do something with them as a living. Well I’ve got news for you. You do end up using a computer. But then again, so does everyone else these days. I somehow don’t think spreadsheets and PowerPoint were quite what you had in mind, though.

In the following years the die is set as you sort of drift into something vaguely resembling a career. You’ll wonder what happened to the younger you, who had a whole raft of dreams and ambitions. After all, how many seven-year-olds actually decide that retail financial services is something to hanker after? Not many, I’d wager.

But here’s the thing. What you do isn’t necessarily who you are. And, whisper it quietly, there will be days when you actually quite enjoy bits of it, too. If it’s any help, I still can’t answer the “What will you be when you grow up?” question now, 33 years later. It’s not down to lack of ideas. I’m just not too certain I want to grow up yet.

So don’t get too hung up about it. You’re seven. Concentrate on the here and now. Or the ‘there and then,’ I suppose. It’s tea-time - Mom will be calling soon. I bet it’s fish fingers, too. Make the most of the opportunity while you can.


alejna said...

I love this. I've been meaning to write something about this topic for a while, myself. I've been realizing for that I have a problem with the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?" It suggests that we will necessarily define ourselves by the work that we end up doing.

HelyH said...

Couldn't agree more, I don't know whether it's our current education system or our parents (possibly as a result of their education and expectations) that force (encourage) us towards a defined career. Sometimes this happens so early that we have experienced so little that we have a very restricted view of the options available to us. I find that only after very many more years of life experience I have become aware of what I would really have enjoyed doing. Interestingly enough, this is something that I had not been exposed to at all during my childhood and formative years.

fatboyfat said...

alejna - I'm firm believer that what you do is not the same as what you are, too.

HH - good to see you on here! What I really like to do - writing - doesn't pay me, but I still enjoy doing it. Still learning, though, so who knows?


Related Posts with Thumbnails