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.