“What do you want to be when you grow up?” You get asked that all the time, Young Self, and you have a couple career ideas. Which is great—it’s so important to have goals. But I’m here from the future to tell you that none of these ideas are going to get off the ground. Spoiler alert (I know that’s not a thing yet): I’m you, and I didn’t take any of those jobs you dreamed of. Here’s why.
This was your first career aspiration, and believe me, I get it. You’re from a Hair Family. Mom’s bangs are one of the Seven Wonders of the ‘80s, and your finely crafted junior mullet is not far behind. It’s only natural you would want to translate the familial focus on hair into a profession.
But here’s the thing: what you really like is doing your own hair. It’s called vanity and sadly, that’s not a viable career option. So, you will write this career choice off fairly early. Instead, you’ll harbor an abiding love for the wonderful men and women who will care for your mane through the years, carefully trimming layers and placing highlights and understanding exactly what you mean when you say you want to look “natural, but also, you know, a little better than that.”
Young Self, when you grow up, don’t be a hairdresser — but do be a good tipper.
You wanted this for a long time—to be the first woman to play in the NBA. Basketball was your first passion and the first thing that made you really work hard. I remember when you told Dad you felt you weren’t getting enough training out of school and rec practices. Together, you two wrote up a conditioning plan and he drove you to Sports Authority to buy ankle weights for jogging around the block and doing sprints up the sledding hill in the backyard, building those chicken legs into turkey legs so you could dominate on the CYO court. Of course you wanted to go pro and be the starting point guard for the Charlotte Hornets and rock teal and sign autographs. And it was easy enough schooling fourth grade boys on the blacktop, so why would that ever change?
Puberty. Puberty and adolescence. That’s why. Young Self, you believed you could do anything you set your mind to, but that was untrue. In time you’d learn that your fully grown, adult self would fundamentally lack the height, mass, and athleticism to start for even an eighth grade boys’ team, let alone the Hornets. So sorry, Young Self, you can’t be in the NBA–but don’t stop looking for ceilings to smash through.
You’ll aspire to be a novelist, journalist, memoirist, and everything in between. And you will definitely spend a lot of time writing in the future — but not how you envisioned, with people handing you fistfuls of cash (and health insurance) to spout your thoughts about anything you want. Instead you’ll write businessy things — briefings, contracts, proposals, emails — usually about topics that are more important to other people than they are to you. But you’ll be really good and quick and clear and effective. And the good news is that you’ll pay your bills on time, too.
Sometimes you’ll write for fun, and it will be surprisingly agonizing compared to the ease with which you used to hand-write stories for fun, tens of pages at a time, without so much as a sip of coffee. Young Self, you’re not going to be A Writer, but you’ll write.
This is something you’ll contemplate for most of your youth, right up until college. Your earliest idols were all teachers, including three of your aunts, and it seemed like the most wonderful profession in the world. And you love working with kids, as evidenced by your first few jobs: camp counselor, basketball referee, and the weird place where kids painted plaster figurines for their birthdays. So a career working with kids seemed totally logical. But when college rolled around, you couldn’t pull the trigger on enrolling in an education program because it felt way too early to lock into a career choice. (Also, what if you hit that final growth spurt and decided to head for the NBA after all?!)
Not teaching turned out to be a good thing, I think, because you are not what we call a “morning person.” You’re not even really a night person. You’re like, a 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. person. And so, Young Self, you will not become a teacher, and for this you will experience a mild tinge of regret every year from approximately mid-June to mid-August.
Young Self, you’re probably wondering what the hell you ended up doing. Well. You work in IT, which is a thing, and you manage teams and your specialty is in preparing complex, highly technical plans for multi-million dollar projects. I know that sounds boring to you, Young Self. It sounds boring to Old Self, too. Your Old Self gets asked “What do you do?” at cocktail parties all the time. “Blah blah blah,” she says as the asker starts to look around the room. (Your current career ideas, on the other hand, are cocktail party gold. “What do I do? Well actually, I’m the only woman in the NBA. Can you move your foot so I can drop this mic?”)
So even though this eventual job sounds incomprehensible to you, Young Self, you’re learning the essentials right now, because your job mostly boils down to communication, being a team player, and doing your part to get shit done. College helps, but less than you’d think. Attitude is pretty important. So don’t stress; just keep doing what you’re doing. Every Student Council meeting, heated sibling conflict, and motivational butt slap on the basketball court is turning you into a person who can fit into a team, solve problems, make decisions, and know when to follow and when to lead.
And has never dunked a basketball, and never, ever will.