Life Advice

Why “who” you are, is more important than ever being “a…”


I watched Lost In Translation today. Rather ironically, the translation of that revelation is that usually I am having a midlife crisis. Unfortunately the same can be said for today.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Was something I, and you, I am sure, have been asked many, many times. Of course I have been through most careers, and you would know this if you read my very first post (which can be read here).

“An interior designer!” I would say with gusto. “I want to be a journalist!” I would pontificate. “I want to be a pathologist,” I would say, and I would say it with such conviction, that even I believed it, others did too I am sure. I so often wonder, why no one questioned the fact that as a 12 year old boy I wanted to have a career made of cutting up dead people. But that is beside the point.

It’s a question where now that I am in the throws of an adult life, is garnished in so many ways you don’t even know you are being asked it anymore. As adults, we adults have translated our own parents rather unimaginative use of language into something far more sinister and through the jumble of semantics we have managed to disguise that age old question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” into something so profoundly different we probably get asked it every single day. It’s just the “adult” way of asking it.

“So, what are you doing in college?”

“Where do you work?”

“What do you do with yourself?”

…What do you want to be when you grow up?

As I watched Lost In Translation, it occurred to me that there was something very wrong with the question. It seemed to me to just be a question is so loaded that I don’t think we realise how damaging it can be for someone to have to think, and I mean really think about what “I want to be when I grow up.” It’s the kind of question that in a mind like mine, would spark an existential crisis – which is probably the “adult” way of saying that in my early 20’s, I am having a quarter-life crisis. I know what it looks like, I have had one before, and in case you think I am joking I am not because when a 40 year old is having a mid life crisis usually a porche, or a motorbike appear outside the front door in my case it happened to take the form of a BMW.

The more I thought about it the more I felt like some terrible injustice has been done to me because I am far more than a career. Surely that is true? If that is true then why the “a”? The “a” is a potent stop point on life, what is the value in declaring your life’s path in one sentence, paragraph, or an explanation of why you are working in a store you hate so that you can go back to college to then become “a …”.

Lost In Translation is far more than just a brilliant movie. It reminds me that sometimes being “lost” is probably a far greater gift than to know what “a” you want to be right now. You may never know is the truth. But my point here is the “a”.

The “a” is far more loaded than we think. I want to be lots of things, the “a” is socially considered to be just one but you can be anything you want to be. I so often try to focus on myself but to be honest I fail miserably at that most times and before I know it I am watching Lost In Translation with tears down my face because I am sad that Bob and Charlotte have to part and I hope that they will meet again and I am wondering what Bob whispered in Charlotte’s ear.

I don’t know about you, but I want to be “a” success in whatever I do, “a” good friend, “a” better guitarist because lets face it I am absolutely terrible.

Most of all, I, like most others want to be “a” happy person. Of course it’s not that I am unhappy now, but sometimes the scars from all those times I have been asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” have left their mark – and sometimes, watching Lost In Translation is the only antidote to remind yourself that you are not an “a” you are a “who”.

Who are you.