See this. This is a memorial on the bank of the Danube River in Budapest, Hungary. It honors the Jews that were ordered to take their shoes off before being shot into the river during WWII. Legend has it that a few jumped just moments before being hit and were able to swim to safety on the other side.
It is also a very personal memorial for me. A jumping point in my life. Do you see the protrusion of concrete at the end of the memorial? Early in July of 2005 I sat there with my feet dangling over the edge. My mind was in a swirl trying to figure out what I would actually do once I got back home.
It was the summer before my senior year in college. So many questions plagued me. Would I go back to Missouri and finish my undergrad and move onto med school? Would I go to Illinois State and get my teaching degree. What would I do? As I sat there wrestling with what I thought might be best for me and my future, my good friend asked me a question. It was meant to cut the tension, but it did so much more. “Well, what do you want to be when you grow up? Do you want to be a doctor? Do you want to teach science? What exactly do you WANT to be?”
Seriously? What do I want to be when I grow up? I’m 21. I am grown up. And then, I started to try to answer the question.
Well, I kind of have to be a doctor. Why? Because that’s what I told everyone I wanted to be. Ok, so is it true….still? No, not really. Alright, then med school should probably be out. What about teaching? Well, I guess that’s my only other choice. Why? What else can I do with 3 years of science? And…..I do like kids. So then, you WANT to teach? Yeah, I guess. What is it that you would do if you didn’t have to make money and be paid? Promise not to tell anyone? Yeah. I’d be a wife. and a mom. Then why don’t you? What??? I can’t just run around with a sign that says “I’m single, you free?”. That would be weird, to say the least. So find a husband.
Wow, that was profound. I hated my friend that day. Life was so straight forward for that friend.
I had always had this belief that I had to be something. My dream of being a stay at home mom had to take a backseat. Sometime in my early childhood I began to think that “wife and mom” wasn’t a worthy title. I had to make something of myself before I could do what I really wanted.
When asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?,” I jumped from Olympic figure skater (which didn’t work out for obvious reasons) to veterinarian to missionary doctor to midwife to teacher to U.S. Army. Even through all the different jobs I wanted to hold, I would always come back to “after I do that I am going to have a family.”
That day in Hungary made me wonder if it were possible to just have a family and NOT have to have a career too. The thought was embarrassing. BUT, if only it could possible be true… I took the leap. I went ahead and went to school for teaching, but only as a backup. Just in case I didn’t find a husband.
Just a few weeks later, I completely surrendered my life to Christ. Little did I know that He would be able to take that surrender and use it to lead me to a man who loved God and me (and was cute too!) And also lead me to my dream job. Ben and I were married within a year of that day. I also got to teach at a Christian school until our first child was born.
Even though I was already grown and had already put several years towards a particular career, that question changed my mindset and my life. It is never too late to ask yourself: “what do you want to be when you grow up?” You may just surprise yourself with the answer.