most likely to…

What did you want to be when you grew up?

If you’d been asked at 17 or 18, what would you have said?

Are you doing what you always intended to do? Being who you intended to be? Or is the reality something very different?

Here in Australia, our senior year High School students are gearing up to sit their final exams.

These exams will give them university entrance scores that will then determine which course at which university they qualify for.

The pressure is incredible with the weight of expectations coming from all directions, not least those expectations they put on themselves.

Even though it was 28 years ago (oh my god, am I really that old?) that I sat the HSC, I remember it as if it were yesterday- rows and rows of us in school uniform doing the first of a lot of very long cramp inducing exams.

I remember filling my head with dates and quotes. I remember drawing a blank in my extension economics exam and quoting a Midnight Oil song. I scored over 90% for that paper.

When I sat those exams I was hoping for a place at a University in Canberra or Bathurst to study professional writing and journalism. My plan was to be a sports journalist or someone like Jana Wendt being glamorous and reporting from trouble spots around the world.

In between all of that I would start my real career of paperback writer.

I was going to be a writer.

Then my marks came back and they were so good that I was offered a place at Sydney University studying Economics/Law.

I allowed myself to be persuaded that to do otherwise would be a waste of the effort I had put in.

So I took myself off to get an Economics degree, majoring in political science and then joined a bank through their graduate program. I blame Midnight Oil.

Since then my career has gone all over the place- from mainstream banking to credit management, to project management to change management to risk management to facilities management- and all stops in between.

Today I consider myself a writer- that’s what I put on my customs declaration.

It’s taken me nearly 30 years to do what I really wanted to do all those years ago- and I’m still not there.

I don’t regret the detours- those choices were made for a reason and my life and experience is so much the richer for them, but I can’t help but wonder what my reaction would have been if someone had told my 17 year old self that this was the way life was going to be.

So today I wish all students the very best of luck, and I also wish them the ability to be gentle with themselves and retain their perspective through this period.

As John Lennon sang “life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

What about you? What did your 17 year old self want to do with your life? What did you want to be? Are you there yet or have you taken and entirely different direction?


Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

5 thoughts

  1. To be honest, my 17 year old self (over 40 years ago) wanted to be married. Sad reflection of those times. At 19 I achieved that and it lasted, happily for the most part for 30 years. But really, I am only now understanding what I have been all along – a writer and a traveller.

    1. its funny how it all works, isn’t it? I asked hubby tonight what his dream was & it was to join the navy- until he realised boats made him sick. So he’s been with the same company for over 30 years.

  2. At 17, I had been out of school for a year and in a very desperate situation, but that’s another story. I had NO idea of what I wanted to BE. I drifted through many jobs, good jobs because I had a great work ethic. But I never completed high school and certainly never went to university and I always did well. I always had a job and supported myself. I didn’t acknowledge that I wanted to be a writer until I was 36 years old because I never had the confidence that I could be a writer. I think that’s what is missing in many people’s lives, the confidence to follow your wildest dreams…even if it goes against society, your parents or your partner. One life long dream that I do remember having is to travel, which I have done extensively. At 41, I am living my dreams of being a writer and frequent travel!

  3. Oh yes… very timely given I’m about to (well, try to) change the direction of my life. I’ve had so many different careers and IMAGINED so many different careers, it’s ridiculous.

    I often wonder though… where I (we?) would have ended up if we’d been given any chance / choice as youngsters. I ended up studying something I felt obliged to do because of my parents etc. Rather than follow a passion. I look at my niece however, who’s encouraged to do as she pleases and she has every opportunity.


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