“What do you want to be when you grow up?” The question that we were all asked as children and the answer that society makes impossible to decipher. As kids, we told those curious people that we wanted to be movie stars, astronauts, actresses, or Olympic athletes. However once we grow a bit older we are forced to believe that we must have a job that pays well regardless of how much it makes you happy. At this point in life, we are probably graduating high school, deciding a college major and choose entrepreneurship or something in the medical field. Sounds like a good way to go right? That will make grandma and grandpa proud and that will make people look at me like I have a purpose. But what about following your dreams? What about getting paid to do something that you’re extremely passionate about? What about never having to work because you love your job so much?
My whole life I wanted to be a dentist. I always loved pulling out people’s teeth in second grade and I was obsessed with keeping my teeth white. When I got braces in middle school I thought they were so cool that they made people want to smile because they love their teeth and that’s when I decided I want to be an orthodontist to make people smile every day. I proceeded to start my journey to dental school by taking some extra sciences in high school like anatomy and human biology my junior year. It wasn’t until that year that I realized that I have been wrong all along about what I want to do with my life. I hate science! Why would I put myself through six plus year of dental school when it’s all science science science?! Looks like it’s back to career-cruising just like seventh grade.
That summer I volunteered at the Muscular Dystrophy Association summer camp 2015. Throughout the week, I was assigned a camper who has myotonic muscular dystrophy. His name was Steve. Steve was seven years old and could not speak. He is fed through a feeding tube five times a day, has to wear a breathing mask at night, has a suction machine for excess saliva that he is unable to swallow, has to wear diapers, and can only walk for certain periods of time. Steve communicated to me by making certain noises or pulling me in certain directions. When he wanted to cuddle, he took my head and put it on his lap to play with my hair. He loves his stroller and every time he sat in it he couldn’t go five seconds without buckling himself in and taking my waist to pull me behind the stroller signaling that he wanted me to push him around even if we were inside. I couldn’t help but be so insanely happy every time he laughed. He can’t really move his mouth and when he laughed he said “huh-huh-huh” and it would last for about fifteen minutes. He laughs at peek-a-boo games and whenever he feels strings or ribbons, he claps when he likes something, and when he sees the water he runs as fast as his little legs can until he reaches the water. He will just stand their laughing at it and every time the shore line hit his feet he would run from it. When Steve gets tired, even if he is sitting strapped in to his stroller, he will get out and insist that I hold him like a toddler. Steve made me so happy no matter how much drool dripped down my shoulder that week.
At this point in my life I was confused. I didn’t know what I was passionate about and I just wanted a job that made a lot of money so that I would be able to some day support a large family (which I want more than anything) and live in my dream home with a ton of dogs. ‘Business it is!’ I thought. I then wanted to go into hospitality to someday own my own hotel or country club, or some type of event entertainment facility. Trying to relate this to things I am passionate about I thought, ‘Why not Disney?’ I love Disney and it has always been a goal of mine to have a job as a character in Disney through the Disney College Program and an internship to follow DCP. This is it. I will do the Disney College Program, I will get to be a character, AND I will be able to have work experience in Disney that will look great when I build my hotel here someday. This was the path I was on graduating high school.
After speaking to multiple different academic advisors and school counselors, I was still just so unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I would be great in business because I have such an outgoing personality and I work so well with compromising and with people in general. That comes naturally. However, I don’t necessarily believe that this is what would make me happiest. Ever since Muscular Dystrophy camp I kept in the back on my mind that I would really love to do something like that in my everyday life but there is no way of making a good amount of money off of that unless I were to go in the medical field, which puts me back at ‘I hate science.’
Watching all of my friends decide what they are majoring in in college, I couldn’t help but realize how perfectly fit their major was to their strengths and weaknesses. All I wanted was to feel that way about what I am studying. This is when one day I brought up that thought in the back of my head to my boyfriend. “I honestly think about doing something with special needs children all the time I just don’t know what kind of job I could have that I could make a happy living off of” I explained. The first thing he replied without much time after reading that was “Honestly Julia, you would be amazing at that.” That moment made me realize that it doesn’t matter what I get paid. If I am amazing at it, why put that to waste? This conversation changed my life. This was it. This is what I want to do every day for the rest of my life. This was the moment I realized I want to help children with special needs because this is what I love and this is what I am good at. This will make me happy each and every day and there is no other job that will do that for me. This is my new dream.
At CMU, I am currently a Special Education Cognitive Impairment major and I plan on becoming a teacher at a special needs elementary school, rather than a public school, to work with kids just like Steve. I hope to succeed in this field regardless of what I get paid, and still be able to support my big family in my dream home with many dogs, but on top of all of that, have my dream job. And so to answer the riveting childhood question, when I grow up I want to follow my dreams.