Do We Ever Grow Up?

We spend most of our young lives dreaming of the future and wishing to be older. When we are young we dream of becoming ballerinas and firefighters, moms and dads, teachers and train conductors.

We walk in our parents’ shoes and we try on mommy’s long pretty dresses and we wear daddy’s massive shoes. However, there comes a time when we must find our own shoes to wear. Even in college when we are “grown up” we still may not know what we want to do. What we choose to study is like the shoes we wear. Deciding on a major is a lot like finding the perfect pair of shoes – sometimes you have to try on a lot before you find the ones that are just right. There are people who walk into the store, heads held high, knowing exactly what they want.

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But most of us struggle to find just the right size and style. We walk through the aisles of shoes, and we pick and choose what we like and then we begin the strenuous process of narrowing down our choice. There are people who enjoy wearing a wide variety of shoes, while other individuals remain in their tattered but well loved favorites. Think about the stories shoes have to tell, the places they have been and the places they will go. Shoes provide subtle indications of who we are. There is a picture of me from when I was four years old – I cradle a baby in my arms and my sky blue eyes focus on something just off camera.

The baby is plastic but dressed in real baby clothes. Its head lies cradled in my elbow, and I hold a plastic bottle of fake white milk to its mouth. Looking at this picture, it is clear that I have always loved babies. Fifteen years later it is only fitting that I want to pursue a career involving children. However, choosing a major still wages a battle within the depths of my mind.

When I was nine I set up a whiteboard in my room, and across from it I placed a small table and a clunky red chair. I would drag my younger brother to my room where we would stay for hours – he was the student and I was the teacher, and for a long time that’s what I wanted to be. Not until I was sixteen did I consider that pair of shoes weren’t my style. Then I thought about becoming a doctor – a byproduct of my obsession with unrealistic medical shows. It didn’t take me long to realize those shoes were high heels, and I was bound to break an ankle.

After much debate I selected “Psychology” on my ASU application – despite having never taken a psychology class in my life. Psychology seemed safe and applicable to many other fields, a versatile pair of shoes that I could wear for many different functions. But at least once a week I woke up in a panic thinking, “Psychology… what I am I going to do with that?” I would boot my computer and scroll through the long list of majors but nothing seemed right. Time and time again, I arrived back at psychology. When I tell people my major they offer a polite smile and say, “And… what do you plan on doing with that?” Many assume there are few jobs for someone with a Psychology degree. I have been told many times that my degree will leave me at a dead end when I graduate with a slim selection of low paying jobs.

However, money was never my reason for majoring in Psychology. I chose Psychology because I love working with people. I have always found the brain fascinating. I love learning about how people work. Increasingly, many fields – from business, to education, science, and medicine – are searching for people who understand others. My degree will prepare me for this.

When people ask me what I want to do precisely in my career I say, “I’m not sure yet… but I want to work with kids”. When I tell people this, I watch their eyes change as a bubble of laughter escapes from their lips and they say, “Good luck with that”. A part of me used to shut down when I heard this until I realized I don’t want to be a doctor, a lawyer, or a politician. I want to be the person who changes the lives of children so they can become doctors, lawyers, and politicians. I learned I do not want to get a degree just to be able to frame it and hang it on the wall.

I want to get a degree so I can keep learning about what I love. Even though I haven’t found the perfect pair of shoes that will lead me to a specific career, I know within the endless aisles of shoes I have found the right section. I will continue to expand my knowledge and discover what I am passionate about. I do not regret the dozens of pairs of shoes I have tried on because each one brought with it a unique lesson. Every new thing I learned built on what I knew from the past.

A part of the little blue-eyed girl cradling the baby in the picture remains in me. I believe that our childhood dreams remain in a part of what we choose to do later in life. We play dress up with mommy’s and daddy’s oversized clothes and clomp around the house in clown-sized shoes that morph our tiny feet, and eventually, we discover our own perfect pair.