“The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” – Steve Jobs
As much as I’m not at all interested in the subject* (if you’ll excuse the pun), you’d have to be living under a rock in Australia to not know that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – William and Kate – have had a baby.
While I haven’t really followed any of the media coverage, one newspaper headline caught my attention: “Born to Rule.”
Imagine knowing at their birth what your child will be when they grow up. Imagine being that child. Perhaps in some countries that is the norm, but this is a child in a society in which most children spend their formative years projecting into the future and talking about what they’ll do when they grow up. And then playing at that. Theirs is the prerogative to change their mind frequently, too: I want to be a fireman. No, train driver. No, policeman… etc.
I remember hearing the song “Paperback Writer” by the Beatles when I was about six or seven years old and immediately wanting to be a writer. Preferably of paperbacks. There may well have been other things I wanted to be before then but that’s the earliest one I remember.
By the time I’d reached about 11 I’d discovered a passionate sense of justice and wanted to be a lawyer, to defend the weak. A year or two later I somehow caught sight of a law library and the many thick books I thought I’d need to read and memorise and I let go of that particular dream.
I was about 14 when I decided I wanted to be a journalist, and in Year 10 I secured a week’s work experience at the local newspaper. For the most part they had me sub-editing the television guide and community notices, but I also accompanied two of the senior reporters on their assignments.
First I went out with a reporter who was going to interview a young boy who had cancer. I thought she was incredibly compassionate until we got back into the car and she complained to the photographer that she was “sick and tired of being lumped with the human interest stories”.
Then I went out with a news reporter to a press conference given by a policeman who’d been shot the previous week by a gunman who was still on the loose. The press conference was held at Dandenong Hospital and as we drove there the reporter turned to the photographer and said, “Wouldn’t it be great if [the gunman] turned up at the hospital and started shooting everybody?”
“How would that be great?” asked the photographer.
I’ll never forget the journo’s reply: “We’d have the story!”
My desire to be a journalist more or less ended on the spot.
What happens when a young Prince George declares that he wants to be a train driver? Does everyone roll their eyes? Does a nanny tut-tut him? Or do they humour him?
Perhaps it’s not even like that. Maybe he grows up from day naught knowing that he’ll be a king in waiting all his life (until his turn comes up to do what he was born to do), meanwhile serving in the military.
In Year 12 our careers counsellor provided us with a book that listed every occupation under the sun and the training or skills you needed for each. It’s online now but was a hard copy book back in the late 1980s, and I loved flicking through its pages. There were so many different things you could be and do.
I’m not saying we should pity little Prince George, who has not only been born into a position of wealth and privilege but in a loving family, too (though I’m sure many of us don’t envy the scrutiny under which his entire life will be conducted).
It does make me feel very lucky, though, to have had the simple luxury to dream about the endless possibilities of what I could be, and the opportunity to do what I love.
*I’m reminded of the classic Oscar Wilde story where he was at a dinner party and boasted he could talk wittily about any subject. “The Queen!” nominated one guest, to which Oscar Wilde responded, “The Queen is not a subject!”