What is the question you got asked most frequently before the age of eighteen?

For me, and for almost everyone I know, it went something like this …

“so, Beth, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

As I get ready to turn 43, I wonder why people have stopped asking that question.

Aren’t we all continuing to grow and evolve as human beings, throughout our life journeys?

So many people in midlife seem to report that they have lost their spark, their joy – that sense of wonder that comes so effortlessly to us when we are children…when we believe that we can be whatever we want to be, in every stage of life.

One day a few winters ago, when I was outside sledding with my kids, I asked them what they envision for their lives. My older son, known for his unique ability to reciprocate in every conversation, posed the question back to me. “What about you, mom?” 

Wow, it felt so great to have someone ask me that! And in that little, fleeting, beautiful moment in time, I realized something. Some of the wonder and the joy that we experience in life comes from believing deeply that we CAN continue to grow, evolve, write and rewrite our life scripts, just as our kids do when people ask them about their future plans.

As children, when someone asks us what we want to be when we grow up, we are receiving the message that we can always keep dreaming and always keep aspiring to be something we haven’t yet become. In that moment, childlike wonder comes to life. But somewhere along the way, people stop asking us that question, assuming we are “grown-ups” and have already landed wherever we want to be. However, most of us still have many things we want to be or do, and would love nothing more than to share those thoughts and make them reality. But often, we keep them to ourselves, squelching our own dreams or letting fear or perceptions of others get in the way. So we keep on keeping on, and end up disillusioned or disconnected…which is not only a disservice to ourselves, but to everyone around us.

We all deserve to tap into that wonder we experience as children, when we feel on top of the world….when potential is limitless and the possibilities are endless….when we feel like we can carve out WHATEVER path we want in life.

Why not? Why not assume that we can continue crafting our life script, with brand new chapters and stories that we write for ourselves? 

As we begin our journey into a new season ahead where trees explode with color and crisp autumn air makes us all feel more alive, may we remember to ask ourselves that simple question: “what do I dream about? What do I want to be next?”

Pose it to your friends as well. “What do you want to be as you take another trip around the sun?” 

My guess is that the answers may bring some untapped joy and wonder right to the surface.


  • Marybeth Gallagher Cale

    Leadership + Communications Coach

    Estuary Leadership, a Division of Cale Communications

    Longtime writer, leadership/communications coach, and certified life coach Marybeth Cale loves to help people communicate and connect with confidence. Founder of Cale Communications + Estuary Leadership in Rhinebeck, New York, she uses her work as a platform to connect people to vision, ideas, causes, and ultimately, to one another. Marybeth has crafted scripts and helped produce storytelling videos, has written hundreds of op-eds, essays, and articles over the years, secured top-tier media placements for clients (who she's then prepped for interviews), and publishes a hyperlocal magazine called Living Rhinebeck. In addition, she works as a certified life coach - with clients one-on-one as they discover and clarify their personal and professional goals - as well as through group training and workshops she conducts for companies nationwide (specialty areas: self-confidence, communication, public speaking, and leadership). Marybeth lives in her hometown of Rhinebeck in the beautiful Hudson Valley region of New York State with husband and business partner Tom Cale and their two children. She cherishes time with family and friends, and loves listening to live music, playing tennis, watching sunsets over the Hudson River, hiking, and volunteering. She's a graduate of St. Mary's College of Maryland (1996), Institute for Life Coach Training (2016), and has received the Citizen of the Year Award (2019), Top 40 Under 40 Award (2006), and Service Above Self Award (Wappingers Falls Rotary, 2003). Learn more at estuaryleadership.com or calecommunications.com.