Written by Claire VanLandingham in January 2007 as part of her application for the Lilly Scholarship
Do not ask me what I want to be when I grow up. The question has haunted me since kindergarten. There is no sanctuary from it; it is an inevitable part of family reunions and camp icebreakers. I try to avoid the question because, honestly, I do not know what I want to be. I can tell you plenty of things I want to do in my life: learn sign language, be politically literate, win a game of monopoly, donate blood, work for a charity, do 32 consecutive fouettes. But I cannot tell you what I want to be. At this point in my life, my interests are too broad and diverse to commit myself to one thing. Since kindergarten, I have narrowed my list of what I want to be when I grow up (princess and baton twirler have been crossed off) but I keep discovering new things that I enjoy and am interested in.
This is not to say that I do not have any plans for my life- I do. I want to serve others. The majors I am interested in are peace studies, non-profit management, political science, and pre-med. These may seem varied and unlike each other, but they are all related through my one concrete goal for my future. I will serve others, whether I am a doctor, the manager of a non-profit organization, or a policy maker in DC. I am not sure which of these majors or jobs will be the most appealing to me when I get there.
I have established goals, but I am not going to let them deprive me of interesting detours. Some of my peers have their futures planned out by the minute. The only things I want to do for sure are attend college and work in either the Peace Corps or Americorps to further develop my views of the world and get another first- hand experience in service.
So, what do I want to be when I grow up? I want to be a leader, a humanitarian, a friend, a collaborator, a gardener, and a philanthropist. But what job do I want? I am not yet my grown-up self; I cannot know what she will want to do everyday. Until then, I will explore and experiment with my diverse interests, strengthen and solidify my skills, and figure out what I truly enjoy.
My kind-hearted, smart daughter shared this with me a couple of years ago. May it be so.-Shannon VanLandingham
May God bless you with discomfort,
At easy answers, half-truths,
And superficial relationships
So that you may live
Deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression,
And exploitation of people,
So that you may work for
Justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears,
To shed for those who suffer pain,
Rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand
To comfort them and
To turn their pain to joy.
And may God bless you
With enough foolishness
To believe that you can
Make a difference in the world,
So that you can do
What others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness
To all our children and the poor.