for the Young Explorer's Adventure Guide, Vol. 6

One of the most annoying questions we were asked as kids by well-meaning adults was, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” There must be hundreds of thousands of jobs out there, how should we know?! Sometimes we chose a job at random like, “I want to be an ice skater,” or the job of the week, “I want to be President!” ––there had never been a woman president of the USA––and sometimes we just mumbled, “I don’t know.”

Instead of choosing a career at age 10, we asked ourselves: What do we like? What makes us excited? What interests us? These are still difficult questions, but better than choosing a job at random. 

The answer to those questions, for us, was science. We wanted to know more about space and nature and magnets and bubbles and trees and the tiniest of things that make up our universe and the largest stars in space that explode and become black holes! Apparently you could learn about those things in science classes, and so that’s what we liked best. 

Our interest in science wasn’t something we shouted from the rooftops; it wasn’t even a popular choice among our classmates. But the thing about having a passion is, if you care about it enough, and you have supportive people around you, you can do your best to ignore anyone who gives the impression that, “Math class is too hard,” or, ” it’s not cool to be a science nerd,” or, “That’s not what girls should like.” Passion empowers you to carve your own path.

Having a passion is as hard as it is rewarding. A lot of the time it would be easier to take the route that other people imagine for us. But the person that knows us best is ourselves. And once you have a dream you’ve crafted for yourself, the pursuit of your dream is exciting, and fulfilling. 

And you know a secret? You can always change your mind. We thought we wanted to be scientists but ended up trying out jobs in media and ended up here, working on a science YouTube channel! More often than not, once you set off down one path you’ll discover other more interesting directions. Keep an open mind, take it all in, and remember to enjoy the journey. Maybe life will throw curveballs at you and maybe you won’t end up exactly where you were expecting, but if you learn to enjoy the ride, that’s what matters.

So we encourage you to dig deep. Find something you like and run with it for a while. Don’t worry if you’re not sure if it’s right for you. Just pick something! Maybe you dislike math the least, maybe you haven’t tried coding yet but think you’ll like it, maybe you’ve always been interested in geology, maybe you’ll find inspiration in these pages. Pick something to try!

Once you start saying your passion out loud you’ll find that for every strange look or discouraging comment there’ll be people encouraging and giving advice like, “Wow architecture is cool – go for it!” or, “Did you know you can have a job as a medical physicist, designing techniques to diagnose and treat patients? Sounds right up your alley!” or, “There’s this science summer camp you should check out!” Those people are your guides and mentors on your journey to success.

There’s nothing better than turning up for work knowing that you love what you do and we’re fortunate enough to be able to say we do! Our top tips for you getting there too? Follow what makes you excited, don’t give up, and most importantly, enjoy the journey!

And next time someone asks you, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” maybe you’ll be able to answer that question a little more clearly. But be content in the knowledge that we’re still figuring it out too.

Dianna Cowern and Imogen Ashford – The Physics Girl Team