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When You Grow Up

September 20
by
Ashley Jetton
in
Health
with
.

How about that infamous “what do you what to do when you grow up” question? We’re somehow supposed to have a well thought-out, pre-planned, and articulate answer. When your grandparents, your friend’s parents, or that family member you only see at Thanksgiving, asks you the question, you’re expected to have that answer memorized—and it better be a good one.


“I don’t know” sounds like you don’t have a future, and a super-specific answer is frequently (and unfortunately) interpreted as arrogant and unrealistic. Where is the happy medium? Why do we feel this way?

In high school, when people begin to ask the “what do you want to do” question, my answer was easy—college. “I want to go to UGA and study broadcast journalism.” A common response I’d get was, “Oh, that’s great! UGA is a hard school to get into, especially the broadcast journalism department.”

Yes, I know that 75% of those who apply to UGA as freshman don’t get in. I know that hundreds of students apply to the broadcast journalism department and only 30-something get accepted each semester. I know the “job market is bad and it will be tough to get a job right out of school.”

I knew the odds were against me, but I couldn’t let the pessimism inhibit me nor my goals.

%tags Health I was in the car with my soccer teammates. We were on the way to a game my senior year, when I got an e-mail from the University of Georgia. “Congratulations” was the first word in the e-mail.

I couldn’t put into words the feeling I encountered when I saw that e-mail. I had made it into the school of my dreams.

From a young age, I wanted to be on T.V. I wanted to be a sports reporter. After all, I had played almost every sport imaginable, and finally figured out which sports I was best at (and worst at!). Although I enjoyed playing sports, I thought it would be incredible to be on the sidelines reporting.

When I interned as a news reporter at NewsChannel 9 in Chattanooga last summer, things changed a little. Although I had the time of my life, I let the idea of starting my career somewhere other than a news station become an option. This didn’t sit well with everybody.

“I thought you were going to work for a news station? I thought you wanted be an ESPN reporter? Why are you sacrificing your dreams?

Are you actually happy in your new job? You kind of wasted your degree, right? Don’t you feel like you’re settling?”

Sometimes it’s subtle. Sometimes these comments are preceded by “Yay! Glad you got a job! So I guess all the news stuff was kind of a waste then?” They don’t understand.

%tags Health This lack of understanding can damage relationships. I have friends who are nurses, Atlanta Falcons reporters, TV producers, graduate students at prestigious schools, and marketers for big companies.

I also have friends who are still in school or working at a restaurant until they land their first job. Almost all of them say they feel pressure from others; what they’re doing isn’t good enough.

One of my most important jobs as a friend is to be encouraging and happy.


HappyChap: “I got tickets to this super awesome concert!! I’m going to surprise my boyfriend. EEK!”

Downer: “Where’s the concert?

HappyChap: “Lakewood!”

Downer: “Ugh, I hated Lakewood last time. Should be fun though.”


I witness examples like this far too frequently. There’s a difference between a simple “congrats,” and genuinely expressing happiness to someone. A friend gets engaged, married, a great job… and some people can’t be happy for them. It’s almost like being happy for someone else is physically painful.

Surprisingly, Downers are THERE the moment HappyChaps get fired or dumped. They love supporting their friend when they’re upset, but they can’t seem to do the same thing when HappyChaps are happy.

If we spend life constantly comparing ourselves to others, rather than celebrating where we are, where our friends are in this moment, we’ll waste valuable time.

What if we stopped trying to live up to expectations that aren’t ours? What if we stopped letting other people steal our joy and our confidence and started being happy for other people?


The New Plan

  1. Despite how goal-oriented, determined, competitive and dedicated you may be, sometimes things don’t pan out the way you envisioned. Sometimes you have a plan, and life says “Nah, I don’t think so. I’ve got something else in mind.” Go with it. Embrace it. Prevail.
  2. If you spend your life comparing yourself to others, you’ll never be happy with where you’re at in life. All you’ll ever think about is what you don’t have, rather than all you do have.
  3. When people ask things like, “So you’re okay with settling?” “So you kind of wasted your degree?” “I thought you were..”, RESPOND, don’t react. It’s easy to get defensive and react negatively. Instead, just respond with confidence and a smile.
  4. Be happy. Spread excitement as your friends get married, travel the world, get promotions, and buy a house.
  5. Resist jealousy, run from pessimism, and—if you’re going to compare—compare yourself to YOU. Challenge YOURSELF, exceed YOUR expectations.

If you had asked me when I was eight where I’d be as I approach my 23rd birthday, I would have said something outrageous (it’s funny how you envision your twenties when you’re eight).

I’m somewhere else, but I’m happy—and I wouldn’t change a thing. 

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