Opinion: In a perfect world


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Cameron Gorman

When you were younger, the favorite question among the adults was probably something along the lines of “What do you want to do when you grow up?”

Or, if the adults were feeling a little subconsciously existential, “Who do you want to be?”

As some of us, including me, have found out by now, it’s not really one thing or another. If we classified who we wanted to be by what we were doing, after all, then 6-year-old me should have said, “An intern and a student.” Which, hopefully, I will not be for the rest of my life.

Now that we’re interns and students, however, the questions still remain; they may have just morphed slightly. You’ve probably heard it from your professors and friends. Maybe as the icebreaker in some kind of retreat about cooperation.

“In a perfect world, where money was no object, who would you want to be?” (Someone reads Zen Pencils.) Just like our 6-year-old selves, we freeze, maybe let out a little bit of nervous laughter. “Well, haha, I guess maybe I’d just travel?”

Now, listen. What Alan Watts had to say still rings true. It’s important to know what you’re passionate about — it’s very important. Knowing what you really want to do can make the difference between caring about yourself and feeling insignificant. Everyone has something. Maybe it’s writing, or painting, or taking out the garbage. You have something.

So the issue here isn’t the notion that you should follow your passion. If you care about something enough to follow it into uncertain waters, then, at the very least, you won’t regret it. Yes, you may get poorer or lonelier, or your hair might get longer. But you won’t regret having chased it. The problem here is not “What would we do?”, but “Who we would be?”

I love to write. I’d consider myself a writer. But that’s not all I am or have been or will be. The guy who bakes your bread at the supermarket– he’s a baker, yes. But maybe that’s not who he is. Maybe that’s just what he does. Most of us will have more than one job coming out of school — most of us have more than one job in school, actually. But the notion that we’re worth as much as our jobs is weighing us down.

What if we could free ourselves from the constraint of worrying about what we were as defined by our careers or day jobs, and just focus on creating the best version of ourselves, our complete selves?

True, America is the land of your-job-is-who-you-are. But last you checked, your name wasn’t Retail Team Member, Food Service Worker, Accountant, Stock Trader or Photographer. Let’s all try to see ourselves with a little more depth; it might actually make it easier to feel complete right where we are, instead of waiting on some magical flip to happen where all of a sudden. You, right now, are the only version of you that exists. All you can do is be the best you there is, and work on getting better.

And, hey, next time you’re at a barbeque with your family, try to hold off on asking your little cousins the old “Who do you wanna be, anyway?”

Try something a little broader. Why not something more like “What kinds of things are you interested in? What kinds of things do you think you might want to spend time doing?” Then ask yourself the same question. Because here’s the thing– there is no perfect world, only this one. There’s no perfect you, either. So let’s meet ourselves where we are, right now, and get to work.

Cameron Gorman is an opinion columnist. Reach her at [email protected]