My son is a teacher. He taught me how to change diapers, he taught me how to lead by example, he taught me how to Google. Both my wife & I are constant students with this guy.
But he also taught me how to dream again.
When you get to a solid working age (when you have given up the dream to be an astronaut or run a shrimping boat) and you settle into your “routine” it is easy to give up on a few things in life without even knowing what’s going on.
“I have a good job; the pay is good and I’m happy.” goes through your head daily and silently your dream dies. The extremes are referenced above, but maybe your dream was to not go to the moon, as much as work with your hands or be an artist of some sort. Maybe it wasn’t to be “happy” because your job was “good” and the pay was “good” – but instead, you wanted to be happy first and be paid for it and consider it “good” because of the fact you were happy. That sounds convoluted, doesn’t it?
Let me do my best to clear this up.
You have heard the catchy phrases or the #MotivationMonday posts on whatever social media source you frequent about “love what you do, do what you love” or something to that effect. In the real world, often, you end up doing what pays your bills – then you find that it makes you happy enough. Little do you realize, this is when the astronaut dies, chefs become insurance adjusters and carpenters become QA Managers. No offense to insurance adjusters or QA Managers. For those of you that dreamed as a kid to be an insurance adjuster or QA Manager – my apologies, this is my story… when you write yours, you point the finger at Marketing Directors and CIOs.
Where am I going with this?
My son hasn’t been bitten by the reality bug, and I can only hope he never does. He has no bills to pay at this moment, so when you ask him what he wants to be when he grows up – his answer remains consistent and quick in his response time…
“I want to be an astronaut-chef-fireman-ninja-T-Rex.”
The first few times this answer came out of his mouth, I was quick to respond with “no son, you can’t be a T-Rex” or “Just pick one. That is not the point of this exercise”. I am not asking for your future resume or what is your favorite type of dinosaur. He obviously doesn’t get it.
Later down the road, his answer would make me laugh and my wife and I would giggle when he uttered the “T-Rex” part and I would make some comment about ‘why he didn’t want to be a Triceratops’ and we would have dialogue back and forth in jest.
Fast forward now to a different time. In fact, this time of life he is 5 – I am 36 and we both have played this game before, so we know the rules. “What do you want to be when you grow up son?” I ask. “An astronaut-chef-fireman-ninja-T-Rex.” he replies.
And for the first time, it hits me… he CAN be anything he wants to be. And he should.
Isn’t that what they tell us our whole life? This is America, is it not?! I have the God-given right to grow and dream to be anything I please – so why suddenly am I not?
What if my son has it all figured out and I am the one that doesn’t? At the time, I’m frequenting my job of almost 10 years, a job that is “good”, a job that the pay is “good” and I ask myself no questions of what I want to be when I grow up. I am a grown up and I have been in the workforce now for over two decades – I know this answer… “I want a stable job, with good benefits that makes me happy.”
There that is again… I was “happy” in my job. There were days I loved it, more days that I hated it – but the money was too good to walk away from. My son, on the other hand, didn’t care to be a CIO when he grew up – remember his answer… it was very clear…
An astronaut-chef-fireman-ninja-T-Rex (said with vigor, with a pronounced passion… with conviction).
I wanted to be an astronaut-chef-fireman-ninja-T-Rex. Badly.
Not when I grow up but instead here I sat as an adult – wishing I was that awful string of characters. My son made me believe that I could be a dinosaur, I had quit telling him that was an insane thought for a while now. If he wanted to be a dinosaur when he grew up, find a way – make it happen. Who am I to tell you that you cannot do it. I wish someone would remind me that every morning – that my dreams were still valid and to not give up…
I did have someone there telling me and he was a 6-year-old.
So, at the age of 36, I made a choice to keep my eyes wide open. To quit settling for “good” and go after the real “happy”. I chose to channel everything I had to chase my dream to be a dinosaur.
One night soon-there-after, while reading our small-town paper (that is roughly 5-10 pages depending on the day) – I found a classified ad for my dinosaur. You see, my dinosaur had always been Design/Marketing – but instead my life as a CIO had me settled into the beforementioned “good” category. I didn’t hate my job, but I didn’t love it. I had created long-lasting relationships along the way with so many clients, employees and industry folks – it would be hard to walk away from it all. All I could think about was that I want to be an astronaut-chef-fireman-ninja-T-Rex.
I owed it to my son to go after it, so I did.
So, with no real clue what I was doing – I applied to be a dinosaur.
A month later, I was Director of Marketing for a company and if you asked me (or my son), I am now a T-Rex. I can’t speak for everyone; some people fall into jobs that later become their passion – that is the funny thing about life. Some people inherit jobs that later become their passions. I had the unique opportunity to enjoy a career and excel in a company, leave that company – and do something I truly love.
I say all of that to say this…
My son doesn’t know what he will be when he grows up, any more than I did (or you for that matter). He might grow up to be a YouTuber (will that be a thing still?), or an actor or an illustrator – and in the process, be an astronaut-chef-fireman-ninja-T-Rex as he described as a child. I will not crush his dreams and tell him he is crazy. I will tell him to go be that dinosaur, just like he told me.