What do you want to be when you grow up?

I have very clear memories of my childhood career contemplations.

The most vivid and earliest memory of this is from pre-school, so I was probably about 5 years old. One day my teacher asked the class to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. Can you guess what I drew?

My drawing suggests that from an early age I had already developed a love of all the things I still hold dear today. It also hints at the fact that I was not going to grow into a person of singular vision … I liked so many things in the world – so it was obviously too hard for me to choose just one future profession for myself.

I drew two pictures of myself – one as a Ballerina, the other as a Veterinarian … So, did you guess correctly?

While I’ve never been much of a dancer, I expect it was the pretty elegance and grace of ballerinas that made the world of ballet seem like a wonderful place to be. As it turns out, learning classical ballet was not something I ever actively pursued.

However becoming a veterinarian was a possibility I considered well into my final years of high school, but I suspect I always knew I wouldn’t find success in the field. I studied the right subjects, have a scientific mind, and love animals … but I just don’t think I could face saying goodbye to animals on a professional basis. My poor heart is too easily broken by such matters.

One thing I have actually done since childhood is write. My first short story was written by hand into a red vinyl-covered notebook, at the age of 8. I’ve been writing stories on and off ever since. Even though it’s been a life companion, sometimes I ‘hide’ away from my words, but that’s something I’m addressing this year.

Because my dream career and ‘real’ career have not yet aligned, whenever I’m asked that inevitable question, ‘What do you do?‘, I shall answer with my own question … ‘Shall I tell you what I want to do?


This post is part of the the ‘Seven Day Blogging Challenge’ being hosted by Andrew. The theme of this challenge was to ‘answer one question I think people visiting my blog may have’. All the details of the challenge are here, and you can see who else is taking part here.


  1. Erika Lee Sears

    I often ponder the question- what do you want to be when you grow up. In my childhood yes that question was asked but it was always a question with strings attached like of course you want to be something with a steady income and so what I enjoyed doing (art) didn’t line up with being what my parents wanted.

    Tracey you are an writer and you can be whatever you want to be:) Be bold!

    1. Erika Lee Sears

      an amazing writer 🙂 I forgot the word amazing!

      1. tracey (Post author)

        Hi Erika – That’s the thing about being asked the question ‘what do you want to be?’ as a child … you’re right, it’s that expectation that you’ll choose a path that involves a steady income and a secure future … I think it’s not until we get a bit older that we realise the right path is doing that thing that we’re most passionate about and the thing that makes us happier than anything else.

        Thanks so very much for your kind words about my writing … that’s the kind of compliment that is a delight to hear.

        I consider you to be a constant source of inspiration and someone that has set out to ‘make it’ in your chosen artistic field … never mind the fact that you are a particularly lovely person as well! 🙂

  2. jan

    I knew we had a lot in common, Tracey. I wanted to be a ballerina from age 4 to 14 when my teacher told me that ballerinas were taller than the 5’2″ I was then and now. I have always loved animals, but when i figured out that the veterinarian had to hurt them and worse, I gave that up. So I’m a write I guess by default.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Jan – I always suspected we had a lot in common too! 🙂
      Oh how lovely that you wanted to be a ballerina too … but that whole ‘height’ issue is a bit frustrating. I wonder why they place a limitation on height for ballerinas? Perhaps it’s something to do with being a certain height for a partner?

      I know exactly what you mean about wanting to be a vet until you discover the full picture of what a vet’s duties involve … no thank you! There is just no way I could deal with the negative each day … I’d be an emotional wreck.

      I think you write for more reasons than it being a ‘default’, I think it’s because you’re great at it! 🙂

  3. belinda/gretchenmist

    could never be a vet either, even tho i share your love for animals.
    i really hope you can find a way to combine the part of life that takes up so much of life and your passions. have spent all of my working life feeling like that! hoping never to have to go back to ‘work’ work!!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Belinda – I just couldn’t do the vet thing … much as I’d like to help animals … my poor heart wouldn’t be able to cope. Not to mention all the animals I’d likely end up bringing home with me! 😉

      Thanks for your encouragement … I’m hoping this year will magically bring about the right combination of passion and work for me … never having to go back to ‘work’ work sounds like the best kind of goal to have! 🙂

  4. Gabrielle

    I think I wanted to be a puppeteer when I was really little 🙂 Now I look back I think being a vet would have been great (but like you I would find some things a bit hard to take). If I could have done anything and could have any talent I would have chosen to be a great dancer or actor or singer or musician (some sort of talented performer). But I chose to be a psychologist and a writer. If I could live to be 200 I would have a different career every few decades – haha – so many wonderful careers out there.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Gabrielle – Oh, how wonderful that you wanted to be a puppeteer when you were little … that’s fantastic! (and says so much about your creative imagination!) … 🙂

      Yep, I just wouldn’t have the ‘strength’ to be a vet … so I have to find other ways to help animals – like adopting more from the RSPCA! 😉

      Being a performer of some kind would be a dream … I’m in awe of anyone with talent in the dance / acting / music / singing arenas … how wonderful it must be to have yourself as the holder of all that talent, all that must be done is to share it with the world …

      Becoming a psychologist and writer are fantastic options too … both would exercise the mind in different ways. Haha, like yourself I’d like to change careers every few decades … that would be amazing!!! 😀

  5. Jennie Miller

    Vet was on my list too, although Hairdresser was also a great fallback. I didn’t really know though, and still don’t….

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Jennie – I know a lot of people from my school were always interested in hairdressing, but I think because I’m not much of a ‘girly’ girl I never really got the appeal … I think many of us are still figuring out exactly what we want to be, and wondering when we’ll grow up! 😉

  6. kellie

    ooh, I look forward to more of the challenge, what a great idea!

    I wanted to be an architect ~ but the years of study put me off.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Kellie – I love a good blogging challenge too! Even though I was only able to take part in a few days of this one, it was great fun! 🙂

      Yes, architecture always seemed amazing … though I agree there is a lot of study involved, and I know I probably lack the necessary drawing abilities.

  7. bobbi

    I was asked the same question variuos times and the answer was always the same: a veterianarian AND an illustrator. I have no idea how I thought these two things could combine. I wanted to be a vet until I was a teenager, when I learnt that in order to become one I had to dissect a lot of pets. No way. I wanted to be a vet to save animals, not to dissect them. So I became a volunteer. It starts with a “v” and it saves a lot more animals. And then I became also an illustrator and a designer, even though a lot of people tried to take me off my road (why?). You know, I really believe you become what you really are, and you are happy only if you follow the dreams you had when you were a child. Children know all.

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Bobbi – I love that your answer was to be a vet AND an illustrator … two most wonderful careers combined! 🙂
      Like you, I had no idea how my early career choices were going to combine – I’m not sure if a ballerina would really have time to also be a vet?! 😉

      I know what you mean about the ‘other side’ to being a vet … I’d love to help animals and bring them from sickness to health, but the rest I just wouldn’t be able to do … not to mention having to deal with some of those silly pet owners!! Becoming a volunteer is a wonderful alternative … I do my bit for animals by donating where I can and by adopting as many animals from the pound as I can! 🙂

      I love that you followed your dreams … and just look at where you are today!! I firmly believe we are pulled in the direction of what we ‘should’ be … and it’s only up to us to respond to that call.


  8. Narnie

    I wanted to be a pianist or an artist. As I got older I realised they don’t pay the bills. But I illustrate my poems and I still twiddle the keys most evenings. I am so grateful for them, maybe more than I would have done if I’d pursued them properly as a career although, secretly, I want to be a scatty smelly artist when I have no responsibilities left to worry about. Now I look at my own kids trying to make those choices and its a long way from the happy dreams I remember. Good post. I’m going to try my own posting challenge… haha. I reckon I shall fail miserably!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Kiersty – A pianist or an artist sound like two beautiful professions to dream of … I’d love to have the talent to be either of those now! 😉

      Those silly bills … why do they have to get in the way of so much fun? I do think we manage to find a creative path around the practicalities of life if we try … just like the way you illustrate your beautiful poems and twiddle the piano keys …

      That’s an excellent point you raise about whether we’d enjoy those things we love to do as much if we had to do them as a ‘day job’ … I think being able to indulge in such things only occasionally makes us appreciate them all the more.

      I hope you follow your secret dream to become a ‘scatty, smelly artist’ … that sounds like fun! 🙂
      It must be so hard for children today, I think the world must be a bigger, wider place than it was when we were trying to make our own career decisions many years ago.

      I’m loving your blog challenge … and you fail miserably? I very much doubt that!! 😀

  9. fairchildstreet

    As my day job doesn’t reflect what I want to do I often want to say to people when they ask ‘what do you do’, i would like to say let me tell you about my interests. My interests would tell a person more about me than my work. When I am in a conversation I am more interested in what their interests/hobbies are. Then people say oh what does such and such do and I often say I don’t know. Thought provoking post. Thank you. Charmaine

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Charmaine – Gosh I know that feeling well (of your day job not reflecting what you want to do) … telling people about your interests rather than your job sounds like a much better approach … like yourself, I think my interests would reveal more about who I am as a person than my current career …

      Perhaps because my day job doesn’t reflect my interests, it makes me more interested in what other people do outside of their ‘9 to 5’ as well … I see we have much in common in these thoughts! 🙂

      As ever, it’s a delight to have you visit here.

  10. Mel

    I don’t yet know what I want to be when I grow up…. 😉

    OK, more seriously, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a teacher. It’s truly a vocation for me. And I hope that my true job title is actually ‘learning enabler’ – my aim is to equip my pupils with the tools they need to discover the knowledge for themselves. And when I see that happening, it is the most rewarding feeling ever! 🙂

    I did also always want to write, though. I’ve managed to (partially?) fulfil that dream too by writing magazine articles and now of course through my blogging. In fact, scratch that word ‘partially’, I DO write, and I love it 🙂

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Mel – I’m still trying to figure out that whole ‘growing up’ thing yet too! 😉

      How wonderful that you’ve had a call to teaching for as long as you can remember … that’s truly magical!! And I can certainly see how it would be a really rewarding experience to ‘equip’ your students for life.

      How wonderful that you write as well … I think it’s a wonderful gift to have, and one that you’re clearly passionate about too! 😀

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