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Childhood Aspirations = Core Personality Markers For The Future

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

I remember the phrase “What do you want to be when you grow up?” more than almost any other phrase from my childhood. People ask you when you are in elementary school, they ask you in middle school, they ask you high school, they ask at church, at camp, at family events, anywhere they can get ahold of you, really. But when you are applying to colleges…that’s when they expect a real answer – not a “childish”, “fairytale”, “dream” answer. What am I supposed to even say now?

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I have realized that your childhood dreams do not have to be just for playing pretend. Much of our personality is based upon childhood dreams, fears, experiences, relationships, and interests. Many adults think that asking about career dreams at young ages promote self-management and gives children something to work for. However, I think that childhood dreams are also a gateway to linking a child’s skills with their imagination and creativity.

I remember when I was five, I wanted to be a ballerina, because I was one at the time. After I stopped doing ballet, I stopped wanting to be a ballerina. Later, I wanted to be an artist or art teacher because my aunt was, and I was good at art. I also wanted to be a veterinarian because I love animals. However, this would have failed because I’m allergic to cats and could never put and animal down. But I have found commonalities in these things and who I am. Even though these are not the professions I am working toward a degree in, they are all core parts of my personality and contribute to who I am.

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Asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is kind of a check in point at different stages of life, sort of like, “Where have you been?” “How have you grown?”, and “Where are you now?”. They are single pinpoints in the landscape of finding meaning for our lives.

I think that our core personalities are rooted in our childhood dreams and that exploring them is very important in understanding who you are, who you want to be, and what kind of other people you connect with. Although every single thing we wanted to be or enjoyed doing isn’t what we become, they are important to finding who that person is. For example, my brother played little league baseball until late middle school. He was good, but I knew he didn’t love it enough to keep playing through high-school, college, or beyond. Every craft takes a lot of hard work, practice, and passion, no matter what it is, and if you don’t have that then you lose the spark. However, a core aspect of my brother’s personality is being a sports fanatic with almost all sports. With me, I sometime feel like I am a ‘jack-of-all-trades but a master of none’ in a way. I like to do and am skilled at many things – this has posed as a strength when I need to act as a chameleon but is a weakness in the fact that is makes it hard to pinpoint my purpose.

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I am currently pursuing a BSE in Early Childhood Education. I have changed majors twice and it has been a rocky road to get here, but all my childhood experiences and dreams led me to it. I have always loved children, learning, reading, being creative, making others laugh, public speaking…the list goes on. I am truly a sum of my parts and a lot of these elements from childhood dreams and fears have culminated into who I am and who I want to be as a teacher.

For me, I love art and I love English, and I love animals, and I love expression – so I’ll incorporate all this into my classroom and teaching style. Through decorations, lessons, books, morals, and support of my students dreams because they are the future, just as I was/am. They are the sum of all their parts just as I am.

I believe we should never discredit children who tell us what they want to be, even if their answer seems ridiculous. Making children feel safe, heard, happy, protected, and lifted-up is a passion of mine. This is probably caused by the outpouring support I had in elementary school and love of learning that has so deeply connected me to this developmental stage. My early years gave me a footing in who I was to prepare me for the next older, harder chapter with confidence. I am so very grateful for that.

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So, the next time you or someone you know asks a child “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, listen to their answer, talk to them about it, encourage it and expand their thinking to new heights. You may have just influenced that person’s whole life by asking an unexpected question that no one thinks to take seriously. It ALWAYS matters.

Until next time…


Maddie Rose

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Maddie Engleman

Millersville '24

Hello! I'm Maddie Engleman; A bit about me, I am a senior at Millersville University this year (I am graduating as a super senior in 2024)! I am an Early Childhood Education major and am minoring in General English. I absolutely love kids, writing, reading, cooking/baking, and crafting with my Cricut. I also enjoy spending time around animals! I am really excited to be apart of such an empowering platform and to go out of my comfort zone writing pieces that impact people anywhere. Stay Crazy!!! HCXO ~ Maddie "I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book" - J.K. Rowling