“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I’m sure this is a question we’ve heard a million times. And I’m also sure that for most of us, the answers have changed many times from when we were five years old. There are some of us who knew at a tender age what we wanted to be and have gone to become just that. While the rest of us are left behind, still trying to figure it out and connect our dots.

I am part of the former.

We often wonder and worry about when our time will come. When will my life change and I’ll stop just existing, breathing and wasting air and space? When will Lady Fortune pick my number and smile upon me? When will God hear me?

I’m here to tell you that you need not worry.

In my tweens I wanted to be a social worker, and in my teens I wanted to be a lawyer. In my early twenties I wanted to be a dancer, and in my late twenties I wanted to be a teacher. In my early thirties I want to be a business woman, dabbling in a couple of businesses that will give me financial freedom so that I could retire at fifty and travel the world. Now in my mid-thirties, I am a writer and an editor.

Quite a stretch, I know.

I never got any career education or guidance to help me make these decisions early. And unlike my brother who knew very early that his life was all things sports, I had to dabble in a lot of things to get to where I am. The schools I went to weren’t that proactive and invested in giving career information. And at home we hardly ever talked about this, save for when I had passed matric and had to go to university. I had to choose to study what my subjects favoured and not what my heart yearned for. I didn’t even know what that was, and it was only later that I sorta knew.

This is why I think my life journey drifted a lot. Nobody told me it would be like this, I had to figure it out for myself. But now schools are actively doing Career Expos and Career Days, bringing information to the learners from such a young age. I love these initiatives.

I was reminded of this when I watched (for the millionth time) ‘You, Me And Dupree’ the other day. In the movie, Dupree (Owen Wilson) visits a class of grade 4s, to talk about his career on Career Day. Trouble is, not only is Dupree filling in for a friend of his, but he “doesn’t have a career”; he is what we call a ‘bum’.

Dupree doesn’t let this dishearten him and goes on to give the best Career Day speech ever given in the history of movies (just my take). He gives a speech that I wish I would’ve gotten at some stage of my growing up.

“I see all you fresh-face kidlets, sitting there in your little rows. You are all just pods waiting for your instructions. Some of you will get zapped right away and be fifteen-year-old prodigies; little midget Olympic gymnasts with your pictures in cereal boxes. Some of you will go off to college and you’ll find your rhythm there, and then you’ll go chase down the titans of industries. Or maybe straighten out our problems in the UN.

“But some of you, and this is the group that no one ever comes in on Career Day and addresses, and this is criminal. But some of you are just gonna float along; eating spicy foods, humming black people’s music into your thirties, well into your thirties; languishing. This group of pods is gonna do a lot of languishing and is gonna take some heat for it.

“But that’s OK. Stay lose. Stay liquid. Laugh a lot. But be ready. That’s what Dupree is doing with his life, little pods, staying nimble. Until I get the call from the Mothership. And then I fight. Then you’ll see Dupree coming in here and throwing several different kinds of smoke.”

Here he pauses and looks around at some blank faces in the class. And then he kills me…

“It’s fine. The pods who were supposed to hear this did. It will kick in when it needs to.”

I still tear up when I listen to that speech – which I often listen to some days when I feel like I missed the call from the Mothership. Or that the world is giving me heat for being nimble. Or when I start questioning my entire existence and purpose. This speech is my lifeline.

Each time, I’m left knowing that although my dreams and ambitions seem too far apart and unrelated, they really aren’t. They are just exercises set out for me to prepare me for what is to come. I believe with great conviction that I will achieve them, in some form or another, I just need to work at them and see the ties.

So if you’re like me and you’re unsure of where this current called life is taking you, take refuge in the knowledge that we’re all here for a reason. And that when your call comes from the Mothership, you will zap with a whoosh, leaving us marvelling in your smoke. Prepare by doing what needs to be done. If it’s taking that on line course or writing your learner’s test, be ready and stay nimble, the call is coming.


Tell us: Are you still waiting for ‘the call from the Mothership?’