Grandmothers and old uncles were famous for patting us on the head and posing this question. And at one time in America the answers came easily. Boys wanted to be, in order of preference: President, fireman, policeman, cowboy, Hollywood hero. Girls: Wives, mothers, teachers, Hollywood heroine.
As they say [exactly who “they” are is never defined] It’s complicated.
Not many guys today want to get into the snake pit that is the modern presidency. Firemen and policemen are portrayed as corrupt pensioners stealing from the public trough. Cowboys have lost their status to hedge fund managers and astronauts. As for the girls, choices in their lives have dramatically expanded. Stay-at-home moms are no longer on every girl’s pedestal, as an entire world of careers beckons.
On the upside to this historic shift is choice. Nothing is out-of-the-question, because everything is possible. On the downside is a mountain of choices which can sometimes overwhelm the seeker at the very start of the trip up. Whereas at one time, in a less socially mobile America, one’s place in the sun was fairly well mapped out for us, now WE’VE become the map.
Two glitches to those maps:
* Some young Americans substitute freedom for purpose. Their dreams of who they want to be is…well, not to be anything prescribed by society. These are the dreamers, the seekers, the poets who envision finding their own Walden Pond while the rest of the world spins madly and avariciously out of control. As some of my envious peers grumble: Nice work if you can get it, kid!
* Then there are some young Americans who have hitched their wagon of dreams to the star of science. I’ve heard them explain it won’t be long until science finds a cure for death. At a time of their choosing, their preserved brains will be attached to robotic bodies for life ever after!
What a world…! What an age…! What will grandmothers and old uncles be asking then…?
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