I once overheard a conversation between a little girl and a very unhappy educator. It went something like this:
"Did you always want to work in a school?" asked the curious girl.
"No," the educator responded gruffly.
"Well, what did you want to be when you were little?" the girl quizzed on.
"An accountant," replied the educator without looking up from her paperwork.
The girl's brow furrowed as she paused for a thoughtful moment.
"You would have been a better accountant," the girl said plainly.
Kids make brutally honest career counselors. It could be because their natural intuition is not yet damaged. Or maybe they just haven't yet mastered the art of telling polite lies to preserve the feelings of others. Either way, if you really want to know the truth, ask a kid.
So I started thinking about my own career and how it relates to my childhood aspirations...
When I was little, my dad used to bring me to the bank with him on Saturday mornings. He'd pull the car up to the drive-thru teller and make some transactions that I never really paid attention to. Instead, my focus was on the smiling man who greeted us so kindly and always gave me a lollipop. Naturally, I proudly told others that I wanted to be a bank teller when I grew up.
Then my mom started taking me to story hour at the public library. I instantly fell in love with the program leader's enchanting way of bringing stories to life. She lit up the whole room with her voice. I definitely wanted to be a storyteller when I grew up, but when my mom informed me that my story hour lady was an unpaid volunteer, I cleverly decided I should become an author instead.
Soon after that I went to kindergarten. I had the best teacher in the whole world, Mrs. Moon. She taught me how to count to 100 and spell the word "bus." I also remember crying when a boy called me a mean name that rhymed with "soup head." Mrs. Moon comforted me and, more importantly, she taught me about compassion. She helped me understand that sometimes people say mean things because they feel sad themselves. After that, kindergarten teacher was undoubtedly my career of choice.
So what exactly do a bank teller, an author, and a kindergarten teacher have in common? They represent a career goal that was unclear when I was a kid, but makes a lot of sense now. I wanted to grow up to be a nice person who made people happy. I'd like to think I've accomplished this. As a counselor I give special treats to kids like a bank teller, construct narratives like an author, and explore life lessons like a teacher.
To be fair, I would have made a lousy accountant.