Ask the grumpies: What job did you want when you were a kid?

Leah asks:

What did you want to do for a job when you were a kid?

#1:  I wanted to be a biologist because I liked science and water and so on.  Then I saw a NOVA episode on Nancy Wexler and Huntington’s Chorea and wanted to be a genetic engineer.  Then I did an internship in genetics in high school and realized it was insanely boring.

#2:  I thought I might like chemistry, and I also thought that I’d like to be an astronaut and a rock star.  (I did not become those things.)

What about you, Grumpy nation?


27 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: What job did you want when you were a kid?”

  1. Leah Says:

    I saw the same NOVA documentary. I wanted to be a genetic counselor too. I even shadowed one! I still find genetics fascinating. I looked into genetic counseling, but it’s surprisingly hard and a lot of work to get into grad school for that. Mostly, I didn’t do enough pre reqs for it in undergrad.

    I remember dreaming about being a waitress when I was a kid. Ha!

    • KGC Says:

      I am a genetic counselor! I confirm that it is very fascinating =) Once I discovered the field in college I was pretty sold and am happy with my career choice (prior to that, thought I’d just be a genetic researcher). Genetic counseling is ever-changing so it’s hard to get bored – I like that aspect.

      As a kid, though, marine biologist and pediatric oncologist were on my list. And my mom likes to tell people that when I was really little, I wanted to be a ‘garbage truck mom,’ – I defined that as I would drive a garbage truck with all my kids lined up on the seat next to me. I think I must have had a really good relationship with the local group that picked up the trash in our neighborhood!

  2. Omdg Says:

    I wanted to be a doctor since 6th grade but my father actively discouraged it. I loved all of my science classes. I remember asking in high school biology how we knew all the pathways for glycolysis and the krebs cycle because I wasn’t even aware careers like “scientist” existed.

  3. bogart Says:

    As a little kid, a jockey. Subsequently and fairly briefly (?), a vet. As a teenager, a horse trainer/riding instructor. Anyone notice a theme…?

  4. Bee Says:

    As a very little kid I wanted to be a baker. (According to my mom before that I wanted to be a house painter, but I don’t remember that.) From fifth grade or so on I always wanted to be something where I could write and edit but not have to interview people (I wanted *not* to be a journalist). And I actually did get into some of that in my current job.

    I loved space and reading about astronauts– still do– but never wanted to be one because I’ve never been up for a dangerous job. (And I was terrified of… G-forces, for some reason? I didn’t want to do Mission:Space because I heard they simulated the G-forces. Not sure now what that was so scary to me.)

  5. yetanotherpfblog Says:

    I wanted to be an anesthesiologist because I read in some low effort “top careers” list that they got paid more relative to other specialties and I didn’t really know what other kinds of jobs paid well other than being a doctor.

  6. delagar Says:

    I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was eight years old. Briefly in high school I wanted to be a forest ranger, but that was mainly so I could sit in a fire tower and be left in peace (this was what I thought forest rangers did). I still wouldn’t mind a career as a forest ranger, tbh, even now that I know what the job actually entails.

  7. Lisa Says:

    I REALLY wanted to be an astronaut until the Challenger blew up. After that, I don’t remember feeling another strong vocational pull until I took chemistry in high school and decided that was what I wanted to do.

    What about now – what would your first choice of alternative career be? If I had a great answer, I’d probably bail and do it instead. But if I had tons of money and was looking for an alternative career, I’d want to do something philanthropic like run a leper hospital in India (did anyone else read that article in the NYTimes?) or work to reform long term elder care or something.

  8. SP Says:

    For a while I was interested in being a lawyer and maybe serving on the supreme court (haha), but I’m so glad I didn’t go that route. Some other ideas were writer, doctor, or veterinarian. I really didn’t have a serious idea in high school, but generally wanted a a decent-paying job, and liked math/science enough. I thought I’d study biomedical engineering, which is not what I currently do since the job opportunities near where I graduated were not as good.

    I had the cutest conversation with my 3 year old about all the jobs she might have when she grows up. On the top of her wish list was putting the star on the tree by herself, since we had just recently told her that was a grown up job. When we told her about artists, she said “but I already know how to paint!” :) and a similar response for musicians / singing.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      One of my RAs was just saying that there wasn’t a lot of job stability in BME because so much of that space is startups. So he went back and got an MA in CS. It’s crazy to me how some of these high tech careers really require you to have a cushion to do.

      DC1, when 3, when asked what zie wanted to be when grown up said, I want to be a grown up. There are a lot of adults out there who haven’t managed it yet.

  9. Natka Says:

    I wanted to be a scientist and a writer. I ended up studying biochemistry and neurobiology and did basic research for many years before moving on to other things. Currently, I do a lot of scientific writing, so it all sort of came true.

    In late high school/early college, I wanted to be a psychiatrist. But then went back to wanting to be a scientist.

    When I was really, really young (less than 5) I wanted to be a surgeon, but then I ended up having a minor surgery (adenoids). They didn’t do general anesthesia. Horrible experience (apparently for the surgeon, too, who ended up screaming at my mother that he would never operate on another kid)! I decided that I hated all surgeons, pediatricians, and doctors in general, and would have nothing to do with medicine :)

    I like Lisa’s question about alternative careers. Unrealistic: I would be a full-time writer of science fiction :) Slightly more realistic: speech therapist. But I like my job and I like the money I am making, so no plans for career change here!

  10. CG Says:

    As a little kid, I wanted to be a farmer. Later, I wanted to be a novelist who lived in the country in a big old house and had lots of kids. Maybe someday I’ll still be a novelist. I have an above average number of kids. And I live in a medium-sized old house in a city. But I do go up to the attic and write, just like I imagined!

  11. Debbie M Says:

    Teacher. From the moment I started school. I saved all my best ditto sheets! I taught my little brother to read! Much later, I taught my little sister those parts of trigonometry that never made sense to her.

    Then I realized teachers no money (ha, they get more money than I ever got!), but I eliminated every other career I could think of. So I prepared for elementary school teacher certification because I wanted to teach all the subjects. But then they were going to have me student teach in the second grade. I was *so* over long and short e by then and wanted 5th or 6th grade, but realized employers could make me teach any grade they wanted and they could wait until the week before school started to tell me.

    So then I switched to college professor in sociology, which at least sort of includes all the social sciences except anthropology. But I quit with the master’s. So I switched to junior high social science teacher (the students are old enough to be interesting, but young enough to perhaps not be totally jaded and ruined) and got certified. No jobs (because I wasn’t also a coach?). So I got certified in math. No jobs (because I looked 12 years old and not like a good disciplinarian?).

    Now I know that when high school counselors ask if you want to work with people, things, or data (all sound good to me), what they really should ask is if you prefer people, things, or data that have problems, perhaps serious ones. That answer is obvious for me–data. I keep forgetting I really want data jobs and not people jobs. I am not at all charismatic and do not have the fabulous social skills I would want for those jobs. (Except teaching people at work, preferably one-on-one, things that they have to know but are afraid of–I am perfect at that.)

    My ideal alternative job was working with teachers to create educational materials that are actually educational, fun for students, and very easy for teachers to implement. I have no idea how to get into that, at least not for money, nor if I could be good at it. Certainly no one enjoyed the things I put together when I was student teaching high school sociology–they said it was all boring, though it was so much better than their horror of a textbook.

    ALL the actual similar jobs out there (like curriculum development) would require me to become a teacher and traumatize three to five years worth of students first. For one job that didn’t require that, they interviewed me, then closed down the job and re-opened it to add that requirement. Even though in the interview I showed them the scary-looking equation for standard deviation (sigma! square root!) and then explained exactly what it meant and why it’s so cool.

    Meanwhile, I don’t know any teachers–I mostly hang with programmers and engineers.

    So now I’m quite happy with my current status as a retiree! It works especially well for me in a pandemic.

  12. Mike Nitabach Says:

    I wanted to be a punk rock star & then I wanted to be a Freudian psychoanalyst. Neither of which did I ever come close to even pursuing, let alone achieving.

  13. Alice Says:

    According to a kindergarten questionnaire that happened to be preserved, I wanted to be a dancer, a teacher, and a mommy. Once I got older, I wanted to be a fiction writer, then an editor, then a professor and a fiction writer.

    I do a lot of writing for my job and enjoy it, and I’m a mother. So those are both good. I feel luckier in my life, at least within the bounds of home and work, than I ever would’ve expected to be.

  14. Steph Says:

    In preschool I wanted to be an astronaut. Then I happened to see only the parts of Apollo 13 where everything goes wrong, and nobody bothered to inform me that THEY SURVIVE, so I panicked and immediately crossed astronaut off of my career goals. It was a few more years before I found out more, and by then I’d moved on (and developed motion sickness and nearsightedness).

    My parents say I wanted to be a teacher early on, but I don’t remember that. I had vague interest in being a vet or doctor, but it turns out I’m way too squeamish. Librarian was also on the list until about a year into undergrad; that’s a career I still think “what if?” about sometimes!

  15. rose Says:

    Fascinating to read. Lovely to see a generation that grew up knowing women worked in career employment as normal not just a result of young widowhood …… well. I really am old.
    Good news.

  16. revanche @ a gai shan life Says:

    In kindergarten I said I wanted to be a doctor but I’m pretty sure that was in response to my jerk uncle (only a few years older than me) who said he’d be a doctor and I could be his nurse. I was fueled by spite pretty early on.

    But after that I just wanted to do things I loved. I wanted to be paid to read, to take care of animals and to tell people what to do (if it was a choice between that and being told what to do).

    • Debbie M Says:

      I once decided there were two kinds of jobs: the kind where people ask me to do something and I do it and the kind where I ask people to something, then half of them do it, then I have to put something in my calendar to re-ask people to do the things and then repeat forever. So apparently I’m the opposite of you on the telling-people-what-to-do measure!

  17. Matthew D Healy Says:

    Absolutely nobody who knew me as a kid would have been surprised that I became a scientist. Which I’ve been doing for decades now.

  18. teresa Says:

    When I was really small I wanted to be “a ballerina” but I’m 99% sure I just wanted to be the sugar plum fairy (possibly as in an actual sugar plum fairy as much as the person dancing). For a minute I wanted to be an astronaut but then we watched the challenger launch in my kindergarten class and yeah. In middle school-ish I wanted to be an astrophysicist (in retrospect that was actually a good idea). Sometime in high school I decided on medicine. Although I was sure I’d do neuro or orthopedic surgery which hahhhhh no.

  19. ccerebrations Says:

    Archaeologist (thanks to watching Indiana Jones), astronaut (until I learned about the weird stuff being space did to your body), botanist (plants are cool and I liked being outside), naturopathic doctor (stemmed from botany with the idea of using plants for medicine and liking the concept of people making lifestyle choices to treat their health before medicine). And now I’m finishing up my PhD in pharmacology so kinda seems like an almost logical progression.

  20. wally Says:

    Recurrent throughout my young life, I wanted to be a psychiatrist like my great aunt, but I never told anyone because I thought people would say I couldn’t (either due to intelligence or bc they thought I wasn’t emotionally stable or something enough). At the same time, there were other things I considered. In elementary school, I wanted to be a lawyer for a while and had two of my uncles as clients. In 7th grade, we watched a documentary about linguistics and I decided then and there I wanted to be a linguist and that persisted through early college. I studied 4 languages and planned to also work at the UN as an interpreter. In my freshman year of college I took a theatre class that made me drop my linguist plans and I majored in theatre with the idea that I would maybe get a career in the theatre or get my PhD and teach (I liked directing and coaching actors). I dropped out of school because I started too young and wasn’t sure what I was doing. I worked in a program to help women get education and training and got therapy from a disastrous and super unethical therapist. I started doing some research at the university library on therapy ethics and somehow met a psychologist who was a faculty member and decided to go back to school to get a degree in psychology (which turned into multiple degree in psych and a career in it).

  21. First Gen American Says:

    As a child I only aspired to jobs that seemed accessible to me. A friend had a mom that was a nurse and she seemed to have the best job of all the moms. Doctor never even entered my mind. I also thought I may become a nun because I went to catholic school.

    I still think that if you are super poor, it’s hard to aspire to these careers that seem to out of reach when no one in your social circle does those kinds of jobs. That definitely seemed true in engineering. 90% of the kids I surveyed in college became engineers because they had a family member or close friend that was one. I was clearly the outlier.

  22. Living in the time of pandemic: COVID-19 (88) « A Gai Shan Life Says:

    […] 2, Day 320: Some of PiC’s work frustration is encapsulated perfectly in Debbie’s comment over at Nicole and Maggie. He has to keep asking his collaborators / vendors to do their d*mn jobs and they won’t […]

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