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The Question Insights From Response Readers

We asked you: What did you want to be when you grew up, and what are you doing now?

From astronaut to zookeeper, our childhood dreams shifted and changed as we grew and discovered our gifts and abilities.

ballerina, police officer, army, teacher, astronaut

Here's what you said:

When I was young all I wanted to do was serve in the Army and be a police of!cer. I have done both, but that isn't what I do today. Now, I lead companies in the creation of new products and maximization of their current products. What I enjoy most is the interaction with other people and motivating large groups to work together to realize tremendous results.

Ryan T. Smith '98
Webster, New York

I love to read and wanted to do something with English, literature, or writing, but I did not want to be a teacher. So I took the practical route and became a clinical laboratory scientist, which I have never regretted, as it has been a very satisfying career, but I still love to read!

Mary Lou Collier
Moorpark, California

As a child, I was greatly influenced by one of my father's seminary classmates, Dr. Francis Greenway, missionary to (then) Rhodesia and later to Ghana. I was certain that God had called me to the same profession and pursued science and math throughout middle and high school. I selected Seattle Pacific as my undergraduate institution because of the small class size, the fact that the labs were taught by professors and not graduate assistants, and for the high placement into professional schools.

Now, after stints of PhD work in biochemistry and science education, I am a school science and math teacher in a small, rural school, as well as a drama director and vocal jazz and choir director (my SPU roommate and I brought vocal jazz onto campus “back in the day”). I also teach psychology, anatomy and physiology, senior careers classes, government, economics, personal finance, and physics.

D. Allan Bruner '81
Mulino, Oregon

Since I was young, I wanted to be a mother and nurse. Later, I wanted to be a teacher. I also wished to help people and meet people in other countries. I have been able to follow all my dreams and continue to create more dreams. I was a stay-at-home mother for 11 years, a teacher for 28 years, and have traveled extensively and continue to do so. Now I also help with our seven grandchildren. It is a dream life in all ways.

Sharon Steinke Stewart '67
Dalles, Oregon

When I was in third grade, a teacher told me to keep a diary. On the first page I wrote, “I am 8 years old and I like to write books. My hobbys (sic) are writing, drawing, playing and puppetry.”

When I “grew up,” I discovered animation as a way to continue writing, drawing, and playing with puppets, not to mention being blessed with the opportunity to write two books about “playing with puppets” through the medium of stop-motion animation. I am continuing to work in hand-drawn animation, teach animation to others, and have aspirations to write more books.

Ken Priebe
Delta, British Columbia

I wanted to be an actress at an early age and trained in theatre, song, and dance. Now I am building up a business combining physical !tness and dance. As a national physical fitness, Zumba, and tap dance instructor, I teach six classes per week, conduct workshops, and give private lessons and consultations.

Paulette DeRooy '93

I wanted to be a coach and teacher in high school. Now I am in construction management. Financially, it's a much better result, and I still get my full of high school sports with my kids' sports.

Jeff Mulder '87
Woodland, Washington

When I was in kindergarten, my best friend and I wanted to be kindergarten teachers. In first grade, we wanted to be first grade teachers. At one point, I wanted to be an astronaut. Even as late as 2008, when I transferred to SPU, I thought I wanted to be a veterinarian.

The one thing I've really wanted all along, though, was to be a writer. My day job is similar to copy editing and proofreading, and at night, I write!

Megan Risley Wildhood '10

I started working in my church when I was 12 years old: playing the piano, teaching Sunday school, becoming a leader in the youth group. Except for a brief flirtation with the idea of being an airline stewardess (what young girl in the 1950s didn't?), I pretty much stuck to helping out at church,  which was where I found my identity.

When I started my freshman year at SPU, a whole new world opened up. I got a part-time job in the Religion Department and worked there all through college. Little did I know that I would go on to get a master's degree in religious education at Talbot Seminary and many years later a master of divinity degree at Fuller. Not only do I teach adult Bible classes, but I have also been privileged in the last few years to write adult Bible study curriculum for two different publishers.

Marilyn Heiliger McGinnis '61
Glendale, California

As a child, I wanted to be a private eye, a back-up dancer on "In Living Color," a marine biologist, and an actress in the style of Judy Garland. I'm currently a writer/editor, and an artist on the side. What I'm doing is creative and discerning, much like the occupational dreams I had as a kid. I have a wild set of interests and I think that makes me the unique person I am today — and have always been.

Allie Fraley '10

I am part of the Class of 1995 and am an attorney for General Electric in Schenectady, New York. I am very blessed to be doing today what I wanted to do when I grew up, but it was a very difficult journey to get here and certainly a test of faith!

I grew up not far from this GE plant and I was fascinated. “What do they do there?” “What do they make?” “Who gets to work there?” I would ask. I don't remember getting any definitive answer ― no one in our family really seemed to know and over the years, even if there were answers, they clouded by the prevailing philosophy of life for a girl in Upstate NY, “Girls did girl jobs,” and there were certainly no jobs like that at a manufacturing plant. There were other largely family philosophies growing up, including, “The world doesn't need any more lawyers.”

I spent four years attempting college on the East Coast, changing my major, taking semesters off, working at dead-end jobs before I ended up at SPU. I am forever grateful to Luke Reinsma who looked me in the eye, made me truthfully answer the question of what I wanted to do with my life, and helped me start on the real journey to fulfilling that answer.

I earned my BA in English but, as many of you know, SPU graduates leave with something more than an academic degree. What you are taught, the gift that you are given, is the task, the mission, to find and pursue a vocation while always walking in faith. I take that obligation very seriously. I was admitted to the New York State bar in May 2005 (did I mention it was a long journey?), swearing to uphold the Constitution of the United States and signing my name to the register of countless attorneys before me. I also joined the profession with $170K in student loan debt and no job!

Eventually, it all worked out. I started with GE in 2008, initially working on power plant construction projects in the Middle East and now projects in North and South America.

Those philosophies that played such an influential part in my early decisions? Well, couldn't be farther from the truth. Many of my colleagues are women, and, I'm pretty sure the world has not reached any capacity limits on people who can write well, reason effectively, and solve problems (otherwise known as attorneys)! Your dreams are most genuine as a child because they are not yet influenced by “practical” matters and adult opinions. I believe it is the greatest unkindness to thwart or denigrate those dreams. I also believe we have an obligation to pursue our own vocations and help others do the same, i.e., “engage” the world.

Yes, my personal faith has certainly played a role in my journey, but, most importantly, I would not be writing this today if I hadn't had mentors and coaches who lived and practiced their faith in God and shared that faith with me.

Veronica Reed Ely '95
Hawthorne, New York

My earliest memory of the answer to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has always been “to be like my dad.” What that meant was someone whose life was defined by integrity and helping others. My dad graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic 33 years ago, just a few months before I was born, and opened up a practice in Mount Vernon, Washington, where he still practices full-time.

There were many defining moments that I remember that influenced my decision to follow the same path and also attend Palmer College of Chiropractic following graduation from SPU in 2002. I remember many instances in which I would be in a grocery store and someone would recognize me from pictures in his treatment room and say “You're Jeff Rindal's son, aren't you?” I would politely say yes, and then would hear a testimonial about how they would have “been in a wheelchair” if it were not for the care my father was able to provide to them. I also remember several instances in which I suffered injuries while playing sports that he helped me work through and I thought, “This is what I want to do when I grow up, help people stay healthy, active, and perform.”

Now, six years into practice, I have the privilege of serving others and helping athletes perform to their highest level and I feel so grateful for the example and influence of my wonderful father. An added bonus is that my wife, Dana (Dana Cantrell '02), and I have been able to start a practice in Seattle, and she directs all of the business and development of our multidisciplinary clinic InHealth Sports and Performance Care.

How has my faith influenced my journey? Faith has always been a cornerstone in my life and was nurtured in me by my parents. It was grown further at SPU through Campus Ministries and SPRINT. I had the privilege of traveling to South Africa through SPRINT, following my junior year, and then was a member of SPRINT Core my senior year. My future wife, Dana, traveled to Kenya through University Presbyterian Church's Deputation program the same time I was in South Africa.

These experiences continue to shape our family, business, and the way we raise our children. We were introduced to a global perspective of faith in action and challenged to constantly ask the question of how we can not only better serve our community here in Seattle, but also have our life vision driven by the need to help support the efforts of agencies like International Justice Mission, World Vision, Compassion International, and Agros serve the global community through the success of our business that is based in Seattle.

Kevin Rindal '02, DC, CCSP, CSCS
Seattle, Washington

I remember up until SPU I wanted to be a missionary nurse abroad. SPU really helped me understand my calling by providing me with great opportunities to get involved in my community and be more passionate about community development through grass-roots organizations. As I've been discovering the great need for development here in America, I've become more passionate about serving my neighbors. Right now, I am an intern with Mission Year living and learning how to best serve my neighbors here in Houston, Texas!

Rediet Mulugeta '12
Houston, Texas

Join the conversation

We want to hear your answers! Tell other Response readers what you wanted to do when you grew up, and what you're doing now. Read what others said about their career paths.

You can also answer the new question for the Winter 2013 issue.