My nephew was recently accepted (early admission) to Cornell. Besides being exceptionally intelligent, witty, down-to-earth, empathetic, and impressively fluent in Mandarin (I can go on and on), he knows what he wants to be “when he grows up.” He is only 17 and quite possibly might change his mind at some point, but the fact that he is so aware of his strengths and the vast opportunities he can partake in is something I admire.

I can remember all the things I wanted to be when I grew up…playing school with the neighborhood kids, I appointed myself the teacher (which did become a career for me at one point; albeit one that I’ve unregretfully left behind). Then, I took an interest in fashion design, spending hours on end meticulously drawing and coloring in pages and pages of dresses with high-quality colored pencils (although I never pursued fashion design, my pursuit of unique second-hand finds hasn’t waivered). I went through a month’s long paper bag puppet stage where I created dozens of different characters and genuinely asked my mom if this too could be a career (no disrespect to actual professional puppeteers and marionette makers). Two passions that have permeated my life are writing and helping others. I find comfort and excitement in language, in much the same way a mathlete finds peace and pleasure solving equations. For a rule-breaking girl, I embraced the foundational rules of language.

Discovering the thesaurus was akin to a religious experience. In third grade, we were introduced to this amazing resource called the Thesaurus (which at the time, sounded more like a type of dinosaur); Oh my! The many and seemingly infinite words I could use for other words was magical! It gave me an opportunity to express myself more than I could ever imagine. Words were powerful. Words can make a difference. I collected words like pieces of art. Helping others with their writing struggles has always been organic and fulfilling. It’s never been a chore; more so a challenge. I put my everything into helping others find their voice through words they can’t quite articulate on paper.

I am in awe of my nephew, his accomplishments, determination and sense of self at such an early age. We don’t all necessarily know what we want to be when we grow up at age 17 but doing something that feels right at any point in one’s life is gratifying. Embarking on a business all my own is exciting and will be just as rewarding, even though it was not what I had in mind at 17.