The question, “what do you want to be when you grow up” has been asked of children for decades. Often that question is met with responses including baseball players, astronauts, fire fighters, teachers, and writers. It seems we ask children this question and not adults, because when you’re a child anything is possible. There’s no sense of practicality involved when giving the answer. You want to be a horse when you grow up? Ok, go for it kiddo!
For as far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a lawyer. That dream died the day Georgetown told me, we’d love to have you attend, but we’re unable to offer you a scholarship…so if you’re willing to spend roughly $35,000 a year welcome aboard.
The day I received that information, was the only day I ever thought about playing the “race” card and seeking admittance because of the color of my skin and not the content of my character. The admissions counselor even recommended I take that approach. I remember with great distinction being told, if you just indicate your hispanic heritage, you’re almost guaranteed to receive a lot of cash. No thanks. I’ll pass on the hand out.
My friends said, just pick a different school, you can still be a lawyer. But, to me if I couldn’t attend Georgetown, I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I look back on that experience with a slight disbelief. It was so very easy for me to give up my dream of being lawyer. Why? Maybe I never really wanted to be a lawyer. Perhaps being a lawyer was just one of those things that sounds good when you’re 12. More likely, this was just another case of me being obstinate. If I couldn’t have my dream my way and on my terms, I didn’t want it at all. Simply put, it was easier to change what I wanted than it was to change me.
So I decided that the next closest thing to being a lawyer was to be in marketing and advertising. As a lawyer we’re trying to convince someone to buy into our POV. That someone could the judge, the jury, the client, or even another lawyer. We do the same thing in the marketing and advertising world. The industries are quite similar. Both bill by the hour. Both offer a retainer based model. Both site history and examples as a persuasion mechanism. Both are judged on wins. Both are highly competitive industries. Both require you to change firms often in order to be promoted and recognized. Granted, the marketing and advertising world does let us maintain a much cooler wardrobe.
This industry has been good to me. I’ve learned from some of the smartest people I’ve ever met. I’ve been challenged consistently. I’ve seen things and worked on accounts that people would drool over; no seriously, they’ve told me. Yet, despite all of that, I’m not satisfied. If anything I’m fidgety. I’m the guy in fantasy baseball that’s always looking to make a trade…the guy that’s never quite comfortable with his team.
As I consider the hopes and dreams I have for my children, it’s made me pause and reflect on my own body of work and where I want to go. I’ve been pondering the question, “what do I want to be when I grow up?” The funny thing I’m realizing is that despite being in this industry for 12 years, I still haven’t figured out the answer.
I’ve always had a plan. So far I’ve stuck to the script and things have worked out as intended. But, hell, that script was written nearly 20 years ago on a typewriter. There has to be a reason we “work.” That reason can’t just be, “to pay the rent.” What I want is meaning. I want to know that what I do matters. I want to know that every day I wake up I’m on a mission to make something count. I’m too young to be realizing my own mortality. So why the hell I’ve been asking myself “what I want to be when I grow up” makes no sense.
Perhaps more importantly, why I still haven’t come up with an answer makes even less sense. Maybe I’ll just become a lawyer; I wonder if Georgetown would take me?