Become an Artist >> Browse Articles >> Life as an Artist


Make Your Childhood Dream Career a Reality

Make Your Childhood Dream Career a Reality

Crista Cloutier

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Do you think we ever stop asking ourselves that question? It seems to be one of life’s great mysteries.

When I was young I yearned to be a child prodigy. It seemed an easy way out. Let fate and genetics take the wheel, it was exhausting trying to sort life out on my own. It still is.

When my natural talent failed to reveal itself, I thought about other career options. I tried to imagine what sort of tasks I would do. And more importantly, what would I wear?

I considered every job I saw portrayed on television and in films. I thought I might like to be a detective, like Kelly Garrett, the sensitive one in Charlie’s Angels. But I try as I might, I just couldn’t run in high heels. Dismayed, I looked to my parents and their friends for career inspiration, immediately turning away with a shudder.

What do you want to do when you grow up? This seemingly innocent question carries a false implication – that what we do determines who we are. The truth is, we are better served by letting who we are determine what we do.

When faced with any decision, particularly life decisions, I like to begin at the end. So picture yourself at the very end of your life and look backward. What do you want your life to have stood for? What do you want to leave behind? What kinds of experiences have you had? Dream big! Why not? In my look back at my own life, I reminisce about my long and happy marriage to George Clooney. (Don’t laugh. It could happen) The point is to have fun with it and see where your creativity takes you.

Thinking about your heroes also reveals a great deal about yourself. Who are the people you admire most? What qualities do they have that attract you? Are these qualities you hope to cultivate in your own life? What about your favorite fictional characters? Are they clever, adventurous, funny, or artistic? What challenges have they overcome? Can they run in high heels?

My friend Guy had the luxury of knowing that he wanted to be an architect from the time of his first Lego set. But many, many years later, ready to retire after a full career as a high-school English teacher, Guy was a sad figure. As I sat amongst the dozens of architecture coffee-table books in his library, and moved aside those piled upon his coffee-table so that I could find a place to actually put down my cup of coffee, I asked why Guy he never became an architect. He obviously still loved the field.

He replied with a shrug, “My math skills are weak.” I was shocked. Guy may never be a physicist but certainly, with some hard work, applied thinking, and maybe a patient tutor, he could have improved his math skills. Guy chose not to attain his dream but to spend his working life in a career he admittedly wasn’t suited for, because he did not give himself permission to learn.

As your own dreams whisper to you, remember that we never really “grow up.” We never stop changing or dreaming or grasping toward new experiences – until we die. Or decide to stop. And as you reach for your dreams, don’t let ignorance, or fear, stop you from attaining them. Yes, sometimes learning is awkward and uncomfortable and even difficult. But it’s always possible. What matters most is that, once you choose a path to walk, you begin to take the steps toward your goal. Even if they are baby steps. In no time at all, you will find that you are running in high heels.

Crista Cloutier teaches workshops and offers private consultations for artists, writers, and other creatives. She contributes to publications The Guardian, Huffington Post, and You magazine among others.

Crista Cloutier will be leading an inspirational one week retreat in the south of France. Participants will explore their own creative voices. This workshop will be open to artists and non-artists alike. For more information, go to The Working Artist.

Find the right campus or online art or design program for you!