I remember a time where I wanted to be a ninja. I was around five and it was so easy for me to think that could be a possibility. Twelve years later, I’m facing the reality of having to figure out what I want to do with my life. As I begin my last year of high school and prepare to go off into the “real world,” knowing what I want to be seems like a defining factor of how my life will be.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I dread this question. I’m sure a lot of teens my age do. For me, I freeze instantly, my eyes shift, I probably look frightened. Because I am. I am frightened by the question because it’s something I don’t want to answer, or rather, something I don’t really know how to answer.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 31.9% of have had an anxiety disorder. These days stress comes with the territory of being a teen and with stress comes anxiety. A part of the anxiety for me is not knowing or being able to see a clear path for what my future is going to look like. Between applying to colleges, keeping up with school work, and having to deal with life in general, it can become overwhelming. But deciding what we want to do shouldn’t be a part of mine or anyone else’s only concern.
Even with all my uncertainty, the phrase I hear the most from the adults in my life is, “You’ll have time.” I never believed it, but I realized it’s time I started to. The secret to figuring out what you want to do is that you don’t need to. At least not right now. I realized that it’s okay that I can’t list a definite career path, or if even if I can right now, I still have the option to change it.
As teens, we’re all at this wonderful time in our lives where it’s up to us to explore and discover our strengths and what we want to do.
For those who ask us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Instead, ask, “What is your aspiration in life?” To answer that personally, in the words of Beyoncé, “my aspiration in life is to be happy.”
Because that’s what’s most important.
Aryanna, 17, attends Rockdale Magnet High School.