Remember when you were little and most definitely had a little bit of snot dripping out of your nose (I’m almost positive I’ve never met a kid without a permanent presence of drippage) and someone asked you the only question that’s answer was infinite—“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It didn’t matter what you said, because in that moment, with all of your tiny little soul, that’s what you believed your future held.
Of course, over the years, these dreams change. In fact, my dream careers over the years would lead to the most radical of resumes. Ballerina, Bunny Trainer, Surgeon, Bunny Surgeon, Dolphin Trainer, UK cheerleader, first girl on the UK Men’s Basketball team, Marine Biologist, Tomb Raider, Paleontologist, SNL Actress, Surgeon, Erin Andrew’s replacement, all the way to the generic “person who works in sports” which could be expanded to include digital marketing or becoming a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader.
I had no clue I’d grow up to be a Digital Strategist. I didn’t know I’d be the girl who requested details for jobs with gifs or put together so many Black Friday emails that the word “black” started to look like some deformed foreign word that I didn’t recognize. I had no idea I’d be the one reporting on digital statistics of our online marketing until I felt like my face was going to melt upon realizing how many people actually see and are affected by the ads that I run. And I definitely had no clue I’d be helping to shape brands with the half-joking ideas my colleagues and I came up with. I’m not Erin Andrews II, I’m not a dolphin trainer, and I’m not discovering velociraptor bones in the Montana desert and I probably won’t ever. That being said, I’m still stupidly happy about what I do.
But at what point do we allow these innocent, imaginative dreams to die? Like, what was the moment that stopped me as a kid and told my tiny brain cells to stop aspiring to train bunnies? Was it the realization that bunnies are kind of independent and don’t need training? Was it doubt from haters I may or may not have had at 5 years old who said I couldn’t wrangle these bunnies and have them perform tricks? Or was it a shift in attention to something newer—and better: bunny surgery?
Okay, well, sometimes we have to let these dreams die. In no way should anyone ever trust me to surgicate on them—human or bunny. It’s clear I don’t belong on any platoon of any color. And due to the lack of tombs in North America, I probably won’t be raiding any in the near future (that is, unless the secret recipe for KFC chicken happens to be hanging out in some ancient, cursed bucket inside Colonel Sanders’ grave at Cave Hill).
But why can’t we still chase, with reckless abandon, the ideas we had as kids? I might not be able to go back to school to study Marine Biology, but I could easily save up for a trip in which snorkeling is a priority. I am still somewhat of a UK cheerleader at every game I attend or watch, and a quick trip to Walmart for essential dancer supplies and a piano instrumental version of a Kanye West song and I could be the baddest ballerina of all time. I can even consider myself a digital tomb raider when I explore the dark nooks and crannies of the internet for data to help strengthen campaigns, though the strADegy wardrobe unfortunately requires pants and no weapons.
I think in our day-to-day lives we get so invested in the “adult” and “professional” things that we do, that we forget our actions can still be full of wonder and imagination. Even if I can’t make the dreams I had when I was 5 come true today, I can still create new ideas that fuel my inspiration towards new pursuits and adventures. There is always time to blaze the trail forward in your professional career while paying homage to the kid who shaped the adult you are today.
Be unusual. Give in to the stupid ideas or weird notions you have. And never forget that there’s still time to be whatever you want to be as you grow up.