Thursday, January 8, 2015

WhatVsWho

Some of my earliest memories are those of answering this question from adults: "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

I went through the usual transitions that most young boys do.  I can remember being allured by the glamorous professions of policeman (my dad was one of those), fireman, etc. I even wanted at one point to be a trash man.  Yep, just think of it, getting to ride, standing up, on the back of those big trucks all day long.  Blissful work, indeed.

As I grew older, the list changed a bit.  I wanted to be a professional athlete, a famous musician, a preacher.  But, the skill, the talent, the discipline, the calling seemed somehow absent.

Then, the practical concerns began to set in.  What could I do to put food on the table and make the college tuition payment?  What could I be that would provide satisfaction as well as reasonable income for my family, for the the long haul?  

Eventually, the question of meaning crept into the calculus of "what I wanted to be when I grew up."  Whatever it was needed to be something that had meaning to it, some opportunity to make a difference in the world.  I learned over time that the "what" had very little to do with meaning making.  

So, the search continued.  To this day, I'm not sure I can tell you definitively what I want to be when I grow up.

In retrospect, however, those adults early on were asking me the wrong question. And, I took the bait, and continued the trend of asking myself the wrong question over five decades of living.  I (and they) shouldn't have been asking, "What do you want to be?"

The right question all along was/is  WHO do you want to be?  

That question can be answered from any circumstance or station in life, and irrespective of one's vocational or avocational pursuits.  The meaning is found in the Who, not the What.  We may not get to write every word or sentence or paragraph or chapter in our lives, but we absolutely get to do the editing.  And the editing makes all the difference in who we are now, and who we become along the way.

Who do you want to be?

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