The best laid plans

16 Feb

I never really gave a great deal of thought to what I wanted to “be” when I grew up. When I was around 14, in 2nd year of secondary school, we were asked to fill in a form about possible subject choice in 3rd year and one of the questions was, “What do you want to be?”. With hindsight I should have answered “thin and happy” since they are the two things I seem to have spent my adult live striving for. But no, I fancied myself as psychiatrist and that’s what I wrote down, impressed with my spelling ability if nothing else.

freudIn the end I chose a strange set of subjects, Physics and Chemistry, Accounting, Engineering Drawing, French and Maths alongside compulsory Arithmetic and English. I crammed in History, Biology and Modern Studies in 6th year and my results saw me offered a place on a 4 year MA, Psychology course when I left school at 18. To be honest apart from skimming a beginner’s guide to Freud I didn’t given it much more thought then than I had at 14 and unsurprisingly it all went pear shaped within 3 months. Faced with the reality of independent study, statistics (yeugh!), maintaining friendships with my mates who all worked and living at home rather than in student halls… it was doomed from the start. Obviously I was destined for a career in computer programming.

Unike 14 year old me, some 14 year olds know exactly where they want to go in life. My kids tell me of classmates who know they want to be vets, lawyers or pharmacists, footballers, lottery winners or WAGS. A psychometric questionnaire indicated that my daughter’s strengths tended towards psychology, social work and teaching, and primary teaching has always been there or thereabouts when she’s talked about any future career. My son says he hasn’t filled it in yet.

My daughter surprised me, totally resistant to languages after 2 years of French she nevertheless chose it, along with a host of “traditional” subjects like History, Chemistry and Biology. She has a single aim, get into university, since MrW and I are discouraging her from narrowing her potential by studying primary education. She’s open to the idea of studying a subject she enjoys and is good at followed by a teaching qualification. Her desire to teach hasn’t really wavered in the 9 years since she first played at classrooms with her friends but there’s still time.

finnish nutsMy elder son’s strengths are less evenly spread, but I think that could well be his own doing. I strongly suspect he’d be good at anything if he just decided to be good at it. It’s frustrating as a parent to foster that desire. For now he is toying with French and Italian, Music and Art, Chemistry and Computing. Talk about beating his own drum. I look at these subjects and try to imagine where they could take him, where these skills could lead him if he chooses to exploit them. I have visions of my TESOL qualified son travelling the world, ordering nut-free food in a multitude of languages, programming in Japan or Korea, busking on beaches with people of all nations… my imagination runs riot. Sometimes I share but my enthusiasm for this imagined future of his just gets me funny “Shut UP Mum” looks. So mostly I don’t.

Mostly I keep quiet and dream about where their lives could take them pretty much the same way I dreamt about mine.

And no doubt I’ll be just as wrong!

Did you map your future out at school?

Or like me, do you still have no idea what you want to be when you “grow up” and dream vicariously of your children’s future instead?


14 Responses to “The best laid plans”

  1. Marylin February 16, 2010 at 3:53 pm #

    I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up!
    When I was at school it was vet, marine biologist, artist, microbiologist, psychologist (that’s the one I applied to uni for), pharmacologist (which is what I switched to, but failed cause of things that I really should write as a blog post at somepoint), a nursery teacher, a web designer, and right now, a photographer (although realistically I’d be better getting some admin qualifications to work as a secretary at a school… the whole thinking of the kids and being realistic thing kicking in there!).
    Who knew I’d have so many different things I’d aspire to be in the last 15 years of my life!

    As for the kids? At the moment I’m just trying to enjoy not having to do the school run yet… only 6 more months of being able to wander about in my pj’s till lunchtime. 😉

    • mrsw February 17, 2010 at 10:30 am #

      The competition for school admin jobs is feral, seriously, I have 20 years of admin, IT and training experience and I think I’ve managed to secure ONE, ultimately unsuccessful, interview. If you’re not already employed by the council and able to second or side-step into one I think you have to spend the night in the haunted library with the jannie or something. I don’t know HOW people get these jobs!

  2. Kelly February 16, 2010 at 7:06 pm #

    When I was 8 I went to career day at school dressed as a lawyer. I happened to have a very grown-up looking dress with a patent leather belt. I thought it looked “professional”. I had no idea what lawyers did, other than wear their sneakers on the way to work and then pumps at the office. I purposely lied about my career choice in the fifth grade because I was embarrassed to admit I wanted to be an actress. I think I said teacher instead. By high school I decided that I wanted to be an English teacher/ high school yearbook advisor/ Theater Arts teacher. Can you tell what classes I enjoyed the most those 4 years? I got to university and soon discovered that there were more people in the education dept. than in the whole of the township I grew up in. I HATED it. In my desperation, I tried out for a play. I got cast after my first audition and immediately changed my major. The family was not pleased with this decision, but they weren’t paying for a cent of my education, so it was my money to blow.

    Suffice it to say, I was wrong on all counts about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’m beginning to narrow it down now.

    • MrsW February 18, 2010 at 12:04 am #

      There’s a theme there tho 🙂

      I take comfort from my Dad who at 62 says he still doesn’t know what he wants to be.

  3. Working Mum February 17, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

    I teach pupils who say they want to be Doctors, but won’t consider any other medical courses when they find they can’t get into Medicine, or they say they want to be Vets, but won’t consider Vet Nursing when they can’t get into Vet Science. Or they say they want to be Engineers, but that they hate Maths! It seems the job title and status are what they choose, not whether they would actually like to be spending the rest of their lives doing that job. So difficult to guide them in the right direction. I tell them to study what they enjoy and then it will lead to a career they enjoy. Worked for me!

    • MrsW February 18, 2010 at 12:11 am #

      Could not agree more. Back in the 1980s when I went to university I remember being a bit disdainful of my fellow students who studied for “vocational” degrees, by which I meant business, marketing, accounting, as opposed to pure arts or science. They had the last laugh career wise but I still wonder when I hear kids say they want to be lawyers if they’ve met one. I’ve only met 2 whoo loved their job and both worked for the procurator fiscal.

  4. Barbara February 17, 2010 at 9:48 pm #

    I still haven’t got a clue what I want to do. I suppose now is the time to start thinking about it *buried head under carpet for next 10 years*.

    • MrsW February 18, 2010 at 12:14 am #

      Wine taster?

      • Barbara February 18, 2010 at 8:44 am #

        Why weren’t you my career adviser at school?

  5. Ian Hamilton February 20, 2010 at 1:00 pm #

    Dear Mrs W,

    I have tracked you down from the comment you left on my web site. I love your web page. Feels like I’m evesdropping on conversations I heard long ago.

    I have run out of venom.

    Would you write me five or six hundred words on any subject for my web site?


    • mrsw February 22, 2010 at 10:35 am #

      Wow – I’d be delighted and honoured and it’s utterly shocking how blank my mind has gone since I read your comment.

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  1. Looking at the thistle with a drunk man - March 8, 2010

    […] comment popped up at the end of my Best Laid Plans post a couple of weeks ago that sent me into a grinning flap. A blank one at […]

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