What do you want to be when you grow up?

At family weddings, at school or by our friends and family – we’ve all been asked to announce our aspirations and give some form of an answer. When you were a child, did you ever say that you wanted to be a member of the fire department, a police officer, a queen, a footy player, or the prime minister? Your five year old selves weren’t short on ideas for the future, or short on blind belief.

Our answer to this question will have changed through time, and may never see any permanence. I once wanted to be a police officer, and then an architect or a town planner, a teacher, a diplomat, and now I just worry that I’ll be flipping burgers at Maccas. Thank you, meme culture, for giving me Maccas anxiety.

Why is it that our aspirations change? And why is it that I’m over-analysing our childhoods? The reason is bound in the idea of exposure – to unfamiliar places, people, cultures, ideas, opinions and emotions. It is the basis of our thoughts and colours the course of our lives.

Our personal realities are based on that which we have the ability to draw information. If we aren’t able to realise that the legal profession exists, and that it is accessible to us, we won’t have the tools to consider applying ourselves towards a legal career. Conversely, if your parents are both lawyers, you probably weren’t considering becoming a farmer. If you don’t know where the cookie jar is, you’ll be missing out on the sweet, sugary bliss. But once you know it’s location on the shelf, how easy is it to inhale those cookies in rapid-fire succession? 

For me, I can pinpoint a number of exposure-giving events that have brought me to where I am today. That’s cheesy, but it’s true.

Xavier with his honours thesis on student voice in rural education

I come from a small, rural Victorian town and a relatively modest upbringing. My family went overseas for the first time in 2011 and saw the cultures of Europe and the Middle East. This experience opened my eyes to a million possibilities, all previously unfathomable. While for many well-off families travel is the norm, this was a rare experience for a farm boy.

Later, while working at a BP Service Station, a customer told me that I “would make a good politician”. I don’t necessarily want to go into politics, but the sentiment caused my mind to wander.

Moving to Ormond College and studying at the University of Melbourne have further pushed me outside of my comfort zone, and aided in the development of my view on life.

These experiences have helped to colour the course of my life, as a range of experiences have helped colour yours. 

Now I study Arts, and being exposed to vicious memes has made me anxious about my career trajectory.

Without these experiences, who knows where I would be; would I have ever gone to university, or would I have stayed to work on my family’s farm?

Why do I have so much to say on this very, very vague concept? Well, ‘vague concepts’ are a common theme of Arts degrees.

I’m also the young-person-in-charge of Rural Inspire’s development, where we’re showcasing rural success stories in order to encourage young people to get thinking. I think I would hope to at least pretend to know the importance of exposure.

Basically, exposure is crucial. It will help you answer the question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’, and it can’t hurt for you to analyse your life’s path so that you can understand how, and why, you are who you are. 

More from Rural Stories

How I applied for the Skyline Program

How I applied for the Skyline Program

Prabh Sandhu is a year 11 student from Mansfield Victoria. In 2020, he participated in the Rural Youth Ambassador program. This year he was accepted into the Skyline Program, which provides Prabh with financial and education support for his VCE studies.How did you...

A day in the life: the National Zoo

A day in the life: the National Zoo

After high school Jemma moved to Italy for 12 months where she worked as an au pair. Eventually she came back home to Australia, moved to Canberra and finished a double degree at university. Now she’s the Customer Services Manager at the National Zoo and Aquarium in...