What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

So, what is it you want to be when you grow up?

I know people who are still asking themselves that question well into adulthood—at times, I’m one of them. On paper, the experiential learning projects, coursework, skills, and programs I have taken on don’t make a lot of sense and seem like the meanderings of a professional dilettante. I’ve worked on video and photography, social media, geospatial tech, database building, web design, political campaigns, social science research methodology, food sovereignty, strategic planning, event planning, grant writing, project management, archival work, and policy. Most (if not all) of these projects fall under the general umbrella of climate change and environmental sustainability, which to me makes perfect sense, but few people, I think, really see how it all fits together.

When I was younger, I believed that there was really only one way to do higher education: you pick one thing you want to do or know about and you just do that. I believed this for like eight years. You start off big with a general field in your undergraduate years and then you narrow down and down and down until you are the world’s foremost expert in one specific thing. And there is merit in that—some of my peers are the unquestionable go-to about a particular type of plant system or a particular art style. But an increasingly large number of my peers are looking to do things a different way.

It’s important to avoid generalizations about Indigenous people as a whole or even as single nations, but one thing I have found to be truer than not throughout Indian Country is that we’re dreamers. Even the most practical and rooted among us has a vision for the future. For some of us, the issue of what we’d like to be when we grow up is complicated, because the truth is that we might be preparing for jobs that don’t even technically exist yet. Some of the biggest problems that we see on the horizon might fall generally under the purview of “urban planning” or “economics,” but many are truly multidisciplinary problems and, to my mind, will need to be solved with multidisciplinary thinking.

As the world around us evolves, so will the sorts of skills needed, as will the sort of perspectives and training. The time is right to imagine what sort of future we need and exactly what we need to do to get there, even if—maybe especially if—it seems like it falls a little outside the norm.

Jasmine Neosh is a student at College of Menominee Nation.

Leave a Reply