What do you want to be when you grow up?
This question has haunted me for decades. It all started in kindergarten when I blurted out “Fireman!” like all the other kids even though I sincerely doubted my ability to succeed at anything that would require me to wear suspenders and/or go outside after dark. I assumed school would eventually provide the right answer, but after 12 more years the only thing I knew for certain was that I didn’t want to become a Mormon. So, I found a college far away from home and promised my parents I’d figure things out once I got there.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I bounced between several different majors before settling on a degree in computer engineering. Since then, I’ve spent 25+ years rotating through various companies and teams while working on ecommerce websites, online games, mobile devices, augmented reality hardware, and cloud-based genomics pipelines. And I’ve wondered every single day if I wouldn’t be better off as a graphic designer or a teacher or a writer or a mountain climber or a bike mechanic.
I’m pretty sure this isn’t normal.
According to math, people my age should already be very grown up. We should also have things like career goals and a retirement plan that doesn’t include scratch-off lottery tickets. In other words, we should have all our shit together by now and *not* still be struggling to answer questions from 1975. Yet, there I was. Unfocused. Misplaced. And a little disheartened.
Then, earlier this week, my oldest son and his wife announced they’re expecting twins in November. As the news started to sink in and I thought about what’s ahead – a resurgence of Legos throughout the house, exclusive tea parties, spectacular lightsaber battles and bedtime stories, front row seats at every dance recital and soccer game and school play, more bikes in the garage, more ice-cream in the freezer, and more trips to Disneyland – I suddenly realized exactly what I want to be when I grow up.
I want to be a good grandpa.
I can’t imagine anything more worthwhile. I mean, no offense to anyone who’s been focusing on becoming a good student, a good employee, or a good leader, but becoming a good grandpa will mean I somehow made it through life without totally screwing up all the important things. It’ll mean I found someone on this planet to love and who was wonderful enough to love me back. It’ll mean I didn’t embarrass my kids to death like they once believed. And it’ll mean I spent the rest of my days earning the adoration of an entirely new generation of me.
And that’s my final answer.