What do you want to be when you grow up? No-BS Brainstorming
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a cliche stock question of grown-ups everywhere, and a tacit question in many college essay prompts. My imagination still responds: whatever I want.
The young physician’s assistant waved at my 4 year-old daughter with a fistful of tongue depressors. Black scrubs, thick black sneakers, and black mop of hair. “I usually just do the paperwork here,” he said. He lowered her bright pink mask. “And by the way these strep tests are only 30% accurate! And they are not fun. We had to do them with each other in our training.”
She pointed to his name tag, “It’s a D!” she crowed, as if she’d discovered a new species. At her preschool, they romance one letter of the alphabet at a time. Each letter gets a day to be the center of everyone’s attention. To be noticed not just as part of something else, but as itself.
“Wow,” he marveled, “She’s really good with her ABC’s.” This assistant, at best in his early 20’s, was already 98% grandpa.
“At least with her D’s,” I agreed. “The ABC’s are my bread and butter.”
He smiled in that I don’t know what you mean at all type of way.
“Teach her another language, too, OK?” he suggested. “Not just English, OK? Everyone should learn at least two, OK?”
“Languages are worlds,” I agreed. “It’s humbling to know more than one.”
“Seriously,” he said. “I lost my Korean. I was fluent as a kid, but then I stopped speaking.” He paused. “Are you sure you don’t want the doctor to look at her throat first?”
“No,” I said. “Am I ever sure?”
He shook his head and swabbed my daughter, who was motionless until she gagged.
“Wow she is very good,” he said, and stuck the test in its tube to marinate. It was inconclusively negative. “Keep being so happy,” he told her. Was she? Or had she just not yet unlearned being herself?
Brainstorm for lost and future treasures:
The next morning, I found this student piece: “To lose my Spanish feels like losing a part of myself.”
I thought about D, and the Korean that once rolled off his tongue, but now felt as unfamiliar as a depressor. All the parts of ourselves we lose as years pass, as the past opens its gigantic mouth and swallows.
When I was a kid, being asked what I wanted to be when I grew up felt like a question with a tongue depressor attached. What does my daughter want to be? Nothing! What does this guy want to be? Is he happy entering demographic info into charts, and occasionally swabbing patients?
Is he happy making people feel briefly like fantastic parents, with fantastic kids? Did he imagine he’d be an unlikely messenger of what’s important?
How do we value both mother and other tongues, in a complicated world?
College Essays Are A Version of Your Answer to What You Want to Be When You Grow Up…
Not sure what you want to be? Not sure what path to take?
This is seriously no problem. It might even be a gift if you stay curious.
At Essay Intensive, almost all of our work starts with intensive, deep brainstorming so you have the chance to nourish kernels of ideas and play out many possibilities. Book with us now to start finding your deepest ideas.