Big Q: When I was little I wanted to be _______. Now I am _______.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Though that question daunts me now that I am in college, when I was five years old it was easy to answer. While most of my peers wanted to be astronauts or doctors, my dreams were far more ambitious: I wanted to be a Tyrannosaurus rex. I was too young to see Jurassic Park at the time, so my fantasies were limited to multiple viewings of the animated cartoon A Land Before Time. I was certain that my eventual transformation offered endless possibilities—I would have a brand-new appendage (a tail) and would no longer have to eat those darned vegetables (T-Rexes are carnivores after all).

Sadly, my mother broke the unfortunate news that for a host of reasons I could never become the ferocious predator. Yet I refused to let my aspirations be curtailed by this minor setback. Still an avid lover of animals, I decided to become a zookeeper and work in the reptile department. That way I could interact with the modern incarnations of my beloved prehistoric beasts.

Now as an English major and creative writing and Spanish minor at Cornell University, I analyze Shakespeare and write poetry and short stories instead of feeding boa constrictors and bearded dragons in Lincoln Park Zoo. While I love what I do, I am slightly envious of my younger self and the clarity and boldness with which he articulated his desires. Regardless of what I do after college, I hope to have the same imagination and confidence of my youth.

Is your job now everything you wanted since you were younger but more? Completely not what you expected? For our next Big Q, we want to hear about your past aspirations and current occupations. Comment below or email

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About the Author

Zachary Lee is a student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he is studying English literature, creative writing, and Spanish. This summer he is thrilled to be working as an editorial intern for Covenant Communications. Born in Los Angeles, he grew up in Chicago, where you can find him performing poetry at open mics, analyzing summer blockbusters, reading Dostoevsky, and listening to the latest Christian hip-hop. His poetry can be found in the Great Lakes Review and 95th & King, and he is a journalist for the Cornell Daily Sun.

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  1. My job is (almost) everything I didn’t want.
    I wanted to be an extreme skier, and maybe a music teacher if that didn’t work out. I think in my high school yearbook I was quoted saying I wanted to live somewhere where I could ski in the winter and surf in the summer, and I’d do any job so long as it wasn’t in a cubicle.
    Well…I ended up getting a chemical engineering degree because I never quite knew what I wanted to do as a vocation, and the “adult” in me was telling me my kid dreams were a bit silly. I ended up in a cubicle, doing mostly paperwork. Now, almost 15 years later, I have a family of six and although I’ve never been enamored with my “career”, it has provided me the means to do what I truly value most: provide for my family and still pursue my outdoor passions on the side, but instead of doing it by myself and couch surfing, I’m teaching my kids to ski and backpack. I still hope someday to find a vocation that I’m passionate about, but my path has served me and family well so far. So much to be thankful for, even though it’s so very different from what I dreamed of as a kid.

  2. When I was about 4 years, I wanted to be a nurse. My favorite color at that time was white and since nurse’s wore white uniforms that probably was my initial attraction. I also thought it would be really neat to check people’s temperatures and give them shots. To do this day, I don’t know why that was such a drawing point to me but it was.
    One of my earliest memories, was going with my Dad to a toy store (back then, there were no malls) and buying me a Little Miss Curity outfit–a white nurse’s dress, white cap with a red cross on it, and a blue cape. My great-grandfather was in a nursing home at that time and it was our family’s custom to go visit him every Sunday after church and of course when we went, I wore my nurse’s uniform.
    Several years later, as a freshman in high school, I became a candy striper. Back in those days, we did a lot more things than what teen volunteers do now. Every Friday, after school, my best friend, Sue, and I would do 2 hours at our local hospital. Later on, I was to become a unit clerk/nurse’s aide there as well. Mrs. Lois Van Rensalaer, was a charge nurse whom I greatly admired and she said to me one day, “Melody, if I were you, I would go to college and get my 4 year degree because that is where the future of nursing is going to be.” ( Three year nursing diploma programs were the traditional way to become a nurse at that time.) In that no one on my Mom’s side of the family had ever gone to college, I thought , “Wow, I could be the first one.” So, having to take the ACTs for college, I was astounded when I was notified that I was to be a State of Illinois Scholar!
    At that time, I was attending a little Bible church which is where I first came to know the Lord. One day, in talking with one of the ladies, I had mentioned that I wanted to go to a Christian college that would accept my state scholarship. Mrs. Sweatman had lived in Chicago and had gone to Swedish Covenant Hospital and through that connection knew that North Park College had a new Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program. So on her recommendation, I only applied to NPC and was accepted. I kid you not….I walked onto the campus having never seen it and was even naive enough to not know how much tuition was. I am sure it was in the catalogue but to this day, I don’t ever remember knowing the cost of tuition! Between my part time job and scholarship, I graduated in NPC’s fifth nursing class in 1972, the first in the family to go to college and walking off campus not owing a penny in tuition or student loans! God provided for me by putting those special people in my life with their encouragement and suggestions and provided the means for me to get my little girl’s dream of being a nurse.
    I was president of the Student Nurses’ Association and one of the opportunities I had was to deliver an address at the sophomore nursing students’ convocation. To this day, I remember my closing statement, “I charge you to accept the challenge that nursing has to offer.” NPC prepared me well and I have too have taken that challenge . I cannot imagine myself doing anything else! Forty-six years later, I am not ready to ‘hang up my stethescope.” In retirement, I volunteer at our local free health clinic as their diabetes case manager/educator. I am part of a medical reserve team for our Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) which even as I write this, has been dealing with a flood disaster situation in our community over the past 8 days.
    God is good! Life is good! I AM A NURSE!

  3. I was quite ambitious in my early grade school years. I planned to be a school teacher Monday through Friday; a beautician on Saturdays; and a Sunday School teacher on Sundays. I am currently a technical services librarian. I’ve never taught school. The only hair I’ve ever cut was my younger sister’s before I even started school (it was very short and I got in BIG trouble). I’ve tried teaching Sunday School a few times, but have never been very good at it.

  4. When I was in my late forties, my friend Mary Anne Weld and I asked ourselves the question, “What do we want to be when we grow up?” We had both been missionaries together in Ecuador and they then went to Colombia. Now we were both in the U.S..
    After discussing the question at length, we decided that we didn’t want to pursue becoming doctors because it would take to long and be too expensive (not that we couldn’t have done it if we had wanted to). So we decided to study Family and Community Counseling at North Eastern University in Chicago. While working full time, Mary Anne as a bilingual teacher and I as a mission administrator at the Covenant Office, WE DID IT! So maybe you may never become a dinosaur, but no telling what you may become along the way.

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