When I Grow Up
by Laura Dilnot
What do you want to be when you grow up? A teacher? A fireman? Maybe an astronaut? For me the answer was always a vet, until I realised I wasn’t the straight-A student the veterinary schools were looking for (the five-year-old me definitely wouldn’t have aspired to sitting at a desk all day unless daydreaming was a viable career). But perhaps the more important question we almost never ask children and young people is, who do they want to be? What’s the take-out they want to be known as – the joker, the meticulous planner, the nurturer?
It feels like some cheesy line from a film, but who you are affects every aspect of your life; who you are is how people see you, how you feel in your own skin. If you go to a job interview, regardless of your qualifications, if they think you won’t fit in ‘culturally’ with their business you won’t be hired. And whilst it can be a bitter pill to swallow that someone doesn’t ‘like’ you, it’s only the same as turning down a second date – if there’s no chemistry, what’s the point?
“Our characters are as unique as our fingerprints – whether we choose to showcase that is another matter.”
The term ‘character’ now seems to be reserved for only the truly flamboyant, or truly hilarious – any attribute in excess appears to be what is needed to qualify for it. At times it feels almost forgotten that people come in all shapes, sizes, personalities and that individual tapestry of who you are is why people love you, hate you, and all the levels in between. There must be millions of blonde-haired girls called Laura, but if they’ve all managed my particular combination of completely ridiculous but sensible all at once, then I’m doing something wrong.
It strikes me that as we get older and can more easily define who we think we are, we actually play different versions of ourselves depending on the situation – nobody is one-dimensional. When you’re with your friends and family you can be the truest version of yourself, but then you head to work or out to meet a new group of people and it’s not always so easy. Just because one person likes one version of you doesn’t automatically mean that everyone will, but where do you stop in the dialling up or down of your own personality so that you still feel like yourself? The distance between stubborn and passive might not always be the light-years you imagine.
Our characters are as unique as our fingerprints – whether we choose to showcase that is another matter. Learning who I am and who I want to be is, I think, one of the hardest battles of all, and whilst it may never be won I like the skin I’m in. I try my hardest to be a good person, I know what is important to me and the people who love me are a testament to the fact that I’m kind of okay. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I do know how I want people to view me, and in the end that feels far more of an achievement than my career.
Laura is a Yorkshire gal living in Brixton. A PR by day she spends her weekends hanging out with her best pals, eating too many brunches, seeking out a dance floor and planning her next adventures home or abroad. She tries to write whenever the whim takes her hoping that it’ll help make sense of life.