I remember that as a child, I would answer that question, “A teacher and a mom!” I spent hours imagining both—playing with dolls, and acting out a school day with my sisters, complete with homework assignments and letters from the “principal.” I later developed flyers for my babysitting services, distributing those to nearby neighborhoods. In high school and college I spent time as a tutor, community education Spanish instructor, and Sunday School teacher.
I eventually went on to realize both dreams, as a first grade teacher, and later a mom to four children. My imagination continues to be sparked as I consider books I’d like to write, presentations and resources I’d like to develop, places I’d like to go, and ways I’d like to be involved in my community.
It’s surprising to me how many of my current students—mostly teens and young adults preparing for employment—have no idea what they want to do “when they grow up.” When I asked about his abilities and interests, one 16-year-old recently told me, ‘That’s the problem. I have no idea what I’m good at or what I like!”
I have a few thoughts regarding the varied reasons for this. If you have others, please feel free to share those on my Facebook page or send me an email!
- Our busy culture keeps us running from one thing to another, without “free time” to play, explore, read for pleasure, etc.
- Time spent playing video games, watching TV, and surfing the Internet is time away from engaging in productive hobbies, learning new skills, and being exposed to people in the community who are doing a variety of different tasks. (My Electronic Contracts pdf download can help define healthy boundaries for the use of electronics).
- Diagnoses such as autism keep some people from noticing or trying new activities, either because they are not as “tuned in” to social things, because of anxiety or sensory dysfunction, or because their behaviors or the negative responses of other people keep them isolated.
- There appears to be less emphasis on “contributing” in many homes today. I meet countless young people who are not employed, not volunteering, and not contributing to household responsibilities. Much of my work as a coach involves supporting parents as they develop a home environment which is more conducive to their sons’ and daughters’ successful integration into the community. (My Summer Growth Chart, which isn’t just for summer, is a downloadable pdf document which can help build “nourishing, growing, connecting, and contributing into a person’s life in a fun and structured way!)
- We don’t share our life stories with others. I think many young people assume that our current “context” has been static for many years, when in fact our situation changes all the time. Many of us started in jobs unrelated to our career, in houses that weren’t very glamorous, driving vehicles that were held together with duct tape. Often it’s true that “you have to start somewhere,” even if it isn’t the epitome of your dream!
As we near the end of 2012, it’s a great time to reflect on our personal life progress. What’s your dream? What would you like to change about your current context or reality? How are you going to do that? We can ask the same questions of our children and students. If we or they cannot articulate dreams, goals, or even personal strengths and challenges, we’ve got some work to do!