How did you decide upon your occupation?

I am, among other things, a teacher and an author. As a child, I wanted to be a teacher and an author, so things worked out well. My childhood dreams were fulfilled.

It was not an easy road, and not the one that I had once envisioned.

I wish that I could have attended college immediately after high school, and I wish that when I finally made it to college, I didn’t have to work a full time job, a part-time job and launch a small business just to make ends meet. But I managed to survive and graduate at the top of my class. I missed out on some of the extracurricular joys of college, but I would not be a teacher and an author today without the sacrifices that I made.

I am fascinated by people’s choices of occupations. In listening to a gastroenterologists discuss colonoscopies this weekend, and I couldn’t help but wonder how someone becomes a gastroenterologist.

The guy might have wanted to be a doctor growing up, but a gastroenterologist? I doubt it.

How many people become the people that they want to be as children?

How many give up on that childhood dream, settling for something more easily attained? More profitable? More realistic?

How many people realize that their childhood dream is not as appealing as they had once imagined and change course, replacing the old dream with a new one?


As a teenager, I pondered the idea of becoming a lawyer in addition to an author and a teacher, and later in life, I looked into this option, taking the LSAT and doing very well but ultimately determining that the law was not for me.

But I still had my primary childhood dreams fulfilled. How many people abandon those dreams and regret their decision for the rest of their lives?

And how do people ultimately decide upon a profession?

My wife became a teacher, for example, because her father suggested that she would be a good one, and she is. In her case, the entire course of her life was changed by the recommendation of a parent.

I have a friend who became a computer programmer (his childhood dream) but later abandoned it and became a math teacher after suffering through  the uncertainty of the job market and realizing (in part because of his friendship with me) that he was better suited to teaching kids than fiddling with computers.

Had we not been friends, what might he be doing today?

I have many, many projects on my list for the future, and one is to spend a year collecting the stories of how people landed in their occupations. There are so few jobs that children actually dream about having some day, and yet somehow we end up with more than enough gastroenterologists and paralegals and air traffic controllers and podiatrists and investment bankers and truck drivers.

Certainly more than were ever dreamed about in childhood.

How does this happen? How much of a role does chance play? How many decisions are influenced by the advice of others?

And how many people ultimately realize their childhood dreams?

If you have the time and the inclination, I would love it if you shared your story in the comments here.