They never stop asking me
"What will you be?--
A doctor, a dancer,
A diver at sea?"
They never stop bugging me:
"What will you be?"
As if they expect me to
Stop being me.
“What will you be” by Dennis Lee, published in
Radiology is a fabulous career choice. Requiring substantial training, it
has the stability of any health care career. The pay is good, the hours are
regular, the benefits generous. Even better, I’d be willing to guess that
radiologists don’t go home at night worrying about their jobs. “I’m so stressed: I
have about 14 X-rays scheduled tomorrow!” No radiologist has ever killed a
patient, at least not directly. And yet: no child in the history of the universe has
ever declared, “I think I’d like to be a radiologist”. Similarly, children don’t declare
interest in excellent careers such as “corporate lobbyist”, “telecommunications
wiring installation specialist”, or even “Speaker of the House”. Children’s career
choices tend to center on what they see. They go for classic, core,
uncomplicated jobs with just a touch of glamour: doctor, nurse, teacher, ballet
dancer, firefighter, fairy princess, superhero.
All this begs the question, though: why do adults keep asking? What
possible good can be served by asking a 4-year-old, “What do you want to be
when you grow up?” I’m not sure that 4-year-olds even have a good grasp of how
old they will be when they are grown up (as I recall, 9 year olds looked pretty