What do you want to be when you grow up?

Warning: meandering self-introspection ahead! Proceed at your own risk!

This past weekend my wife asked me a question while we were running through a beautiful State Park. She said, “What do you want to do in the future? Like, where do you want to be in 5 years?” She asked me this because I tend to be the type of person that tries to help others achieve their potential instead of focusing as much on my own. It’s always been that way to some degree. I gave up my first career-of-choice to start a family with my first wife, and then when I was faced with an opportunity to try that career again, other things got in the way and so I put it on the shelf, for the betterment of my family.

With my current wife, most of our relationship has been about getting her through her school program. With my step-son it’s been the same. My two sons are both in school and I’ve spent tons of time trying to make sure that they’re in the right academic program for their needs, and encouraging my oldest into looking at college programs to give him a career boost when he gets past high school.

I’m forty-one years old right now, and it’s pretty much the time in life when you start to have a mid-life crisis. I’m not volunteering for one, but it is a time when one’s thoughts turn towards looking at what they’ve achieved in their life, and if it’s what they want to spend the second half of their life doing. My personal goal is to live into my 80’s, which means I’m literally at the half-way point in my life. The first 15 years of my life were being a kid, and the last 15 years will probably be a winding-down that mirrors the winding-up of childhood. That gives 25 years on both sides of the mid-line point.

For the first 25 years of my life I spent time learning in higher education and then getting into a career in Information Technology. Not because I really studied to do it, but because I was good at it and had a lot of success. That leaves this second 25 years to potentially do something different with. My kids will be adults within 5 years, my wife will be starting her career, and the potential to make changes is pretty wide open. But that’s the rub… I’m not totally sure what I’d want to do.

Part of me could continue to climb the corporate ladder. There’s a lot of opportunity out there for someone like myself in IT, and lots of opportunity to grow in to bigger and better things, such as a Chief Information Officer of an organization, helping guide the technology direction of an entire company. Another part of me would just rather grow my hair out, get a bunch more tattoos, never wear a dress shirt again, and open up a small brewery/taproom, maybe with a running store attached. Or I could do nothing, and just keep doing what I’m doing now for the next 25 years.

All those options are completely within my scope of abilities, and that’s the scary part. It means that at some point I need to think about myself and my future in more than the speculative. It means that at some point I need to actually consider what I want to do and make a move (or not), and honestly, that’s more difficult for me to do for myself than for others. I’m very comfortable helping people figure out what they want to do, and helping them make success in their life. I’ve loved helping my wife and step-son with their career building, and am looking forward to being there for my two boys.

Maybe it’s because my career building hasn’t really been much of a choice for me. I started on the IT ladder, and I’ve progressed as I should. The two times I tried to go a different direction didn’t work (and in retrospect I’m glad they didn’t). But maybe that’s made me gun-shy to bother looking at my own wants and desires, and instead just focus on what I can help other people do. Or maybe it’s time for more long runs in the woods where I contemplate my navel and the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.

Hmm… I have a 50K trail race coming up on Saturday…..