Who here is guilty of using the phrase, "When I grow up" in the past year? I have witnessed the use of it by students at my school (myself included), and one day it hit me. For the most part, we are grown up. No pressure, or anything.
I don't actually have a problem with "When I grow up" itself. It allows little kids to imagine and wonder, and is a pretty good Pussycat Dolls song, but it is awfully misleading. It makes it seem like one day, I'll just be a grownup, and I'll just KNOW what I'm going to do, because I'm a grownup and that's how it works. "When I grow up" made me think that I would age up one day like a Sim, and I would just be tall, stylish and most importantly aware of what career path I would take. The reason I still don't know what I want to be when I "grow up" is because of "When I grow up."
In elementary school, the question "What do you want to do when you grow up?" filled me with whimzy. Now, it just fills me with fear (and headaches), because it's serious now. As a child, I felt free to answer whatever I wanted. When I was little, I would say I wanted to be a zebra because it simply didn't matter. I didn't have to worry about whether zebras were hiring, or the average wage of a zebra, or the best colleges for studying zebra-ology. Now, I feel like I'm walking on eggshells when I answer, because I know people will judge my intelligence on my answer. Also, if I say, "I don't know," they are going to infer that I really mean I'm going to live in a box. If I knew the horrors of the words "When I grow up" back in elementary school, I would have started seriously thinking about it sooner, (or invested in Apple and been able to avoid the question completely).
Honestly, there isn't an easy way to fix the problem. If we tell little kids that it's crucial to their survival that they can get a job and make money, then there are millions of kids who find out that they can't be a zebra prematurely. (I mean you can be a zebra if you want, but I hear that job isn't hiring very much now.) However, if we still let the high schoolers believe that they can be zebras, then we will have millions of out-of-work zebras. Maybe, the first person ever to ask the "When you grow up" question should have been interrupted by a frisbee in the face or bird droppings on his head so he would have forgotten his question. We can get there once we get the time machine. As for now, I'm stumped.
So, if you're a parent and when asked what your child wants to be when he or she "grows up" can't seem to remember what words are or how sentences work, give 'em a break. Right now the college world seems like The Hunger Games except everybody's Katniss. If you're too old to understand that reference, just know it's really, really, really scary.
Also, if you're a student who can't seem to remember what words are or how sentences work when asked what you are going to do when you "grow up," give yourself a break. You've still got time to think. Some people your parents' age still don't know. Some people never know. Also, if it doesn't work you can always just live in a box, providing that said box is Wi-Fi accessible.