What do you want to be when you grow up?

I went through most of my teenage years not having a clue what I wanted to do after school. I enjoyed school – apart from lunch breaks and doing cross-country in the snow. There was a structure to it, you knew what was expected of you, and I thought learning was fun, especially languages (mine were French and German).

So I thought I’d probably want to do something with languages – but the only things people could suggest to me were things like becoming an interpreter.

I did do a bit of that voluntarily for some friends and it was a lot of fun. Well most of the time. The bit where they started talking about each other and I had to decide whether I was going to claim not to have understood or let the worst of it get lost in realtime creative translation was less fun, but that didn’t happen all the time.

It wasn’t what I wanted to do though. It was definitely rewarding, because I knew the people needed my skills to be able to understand each other properly. That felt good because I was helping them. But in the traditional sense, you only ever get to interpret other people’s words without having your own voice. I didn’t want to do that full-time.

As a small child it was easy. I wanted to be a teacher. I would have my own class and teach them things. While others were building pirate ships and fortresses with their lego, I designed my school!

I’d wrote my own activities too! I had a ring binder with activities when I was about 9 or 10 and a timetable to make sure all of the subjects were covered.

The rules of my games were usually to involved and complicated to explain to others, and if something’s too much effort to share, I usually don’t bother!

I did spend time with others, but my own games were things I could only really play on my own. I enjoyed learning and using the things I’d learned.

I didn’t lack imagination, but as I grew older, I saw the flaw in my plan – I’d have to work with children. I didn’t want to work with children, so I gave up on the idea, finished my education, got a job, and forgot all about being a teacher.

I won’t go through my CV here – I had a number of jobs before settling as a Communication Manager – still working with language, but only English. I kept up my interest in German (and a couple of other languages too) by developing a network of friends online and working voluntarily for an online community platform.

I remember getting the flu and having way too much time on my hands. You know how it is – you’re not well enough to get up and do stuff, but you’re done with lying in bed. So I sat at my laptop and filled out a questionnaire that a friend had sent to me. Really I think it was for people who were just starting out on their career. I’d got about 10 years behind me by this point, but I was feeling that something was missing. I was getting more of a sense of fulfilment out of my voluntary work than my day job, and the 3-hour commute was making me miserable. Of course when you’re not well, everything seems that much worse.

But that was an important first step for me. I kept thinking about my answers and how I still found myself teaching people things in my spare time. My friends, people that I’d met online – and they were learning too, so I can’t have been that bad at it! It set me thinking that to be a teacher, you don’t just have to work with children. You can work with adults too.

With that realisation, it didn’t take long for the rest of the plan to start taking shape. I got some teaching qualifications while I was still working. I got myself some teaching experience too before setting up on my own.

The basic website that I set up in 2012 looked nothing like my site now, but you have to start somewhere and build on what you have. I attended courses about setting up your own business, tax returns, marketing, and thought about where I could find my first customers.

My first student was someone I’d already been helping. That made things easier – I knew I liked her and that we could work well together. The next was the partner of someone whom I already knew. I hadn’t met her before, but we had someone who introduced us. The third person was a complete stranger, and it went on from there!

I left my Communications Manager job and have been developing English with Kirsty ever since, teaching English to (mainly German-speaking) adults. The commute is a thing of the past too because all of my training happens online. Helping people to learn and to use the skills they have gives me job satisfaction, and I’ve met so many fascinating people. No two days are the same!

I do a number of other things in addition to language training, which is a story for another day, but the point I wanted to make is that I came full circle. It just took me a long time to realise that I could have what I wanted if I thought a bit more creatively. You don’t have to give up on your dreams if you’re willing to spend a bit more time figuring out the details of how you can make them work.

The job that I have now probably didn’t exist when I was considering my career options. I don’t remember being encouraged to really think creatively at that time about my skills and the needs that I could fulfil. I was also given some pretty dire career advice, but we’re responsible for our own choices and it all worked out in the end.

I was employed for over 11 years before deciding to become self-employed in 2012, and although I didn’t love everything about those 11 years, I met some great people and learned a lot of valuable lessons that I can draw upon now.

So tell me – what did you want to be when you were a child, and what are you doing now? Is there any connection?

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Author: englishwithkirsty

I have two blogs. Unseen Beauty is my personal blog. English with Kirsty is my business blog for people who are interested in languages or learning English.

4 thoughts on “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

  1. Ahhh this was interesting to hear how you changed as you grew older. I had two ideas of what I wanted to be as I grew up, and they stayed pretty consistent. I wanted to either be a forensic scientist with the police, (yep, investigating murder scenes etc) or I wanted to be an author. I would still love to be an author! I have had a lot of jobs, but two main career’s. My City job before I had my kids was as a Financial advisor and Bank manager, my career after having the boys, a facialist and skincare clinic owner. If I could earn my wage writing, I would be as happy as larry.

  2. It’s fascinating to read how things changed for you from what you wanted to do (then realising you didn’t want to teach children so moving away from that into other jobs) and turning from employee to self-employed. That takes a lot of guts and effort so you should be very proud of yourself. I find your journey so inspiring, I can only hope that one day I’ll figure out what I want to do given the situation I’m in with my health, and I’d like to hope there’s something in the self-employed realm that will be enough to generate a liveable income.
    I went through lots of phases of things I wanted to be when I was younger. A teacher was one of them, and I’d often model myself a little on the teachers I had in primary school (I remember buying similar sandals to one teacher, and a bracelet just like another teacher had) because I really enjoyed school then. High school, yuck, horrible experience. I also wanted to be a lawyer, then my interest in Psych took off and ever since I wanted to be a clinical psychologist or at least a counsellor, but now it seems neither of those will become a reality. Now it’s trying to navigate a new path… I wish I could go back to being a kid with ideas and future possibilities without the pressure 😉

    1. Yes, it’s interesting how things change over the years. I had my favourite teachers at primary school and wanted to be one of them, not one of the kids lol!

      Being self-employed does give you a lot of flexibility because you make the rules. It’s just that you don’t have a fixed income any more, which is the biggest difference I found from being employed. You have to build it up and there will be good months and not-so-good months. That takes a bit of getting used to, but you do begin to see patterns after a couple of years, which makes it easier to plan.

      It’s a winning combination if you can find something you enjoy doing and that pays the bills. You worked really hard for your degree, so I hope you can find some way to use it. If you do decide to go down the self-employment track, there are plenty of resources out there to help.

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