When I grow up…

D’you remember when you were a kid, being asked what you wanted to be when you were older?

I wanted to be a Salvation Army officer. Failing that, any job that paid me to travel the world. I didn’t get to do my first choice and although I’m writing this on the night coach to London I didn’t really travel the world either.

The truth was, I didn’t really know what the choices were. I knew my parents job, and a lot of their friends worked the same career, my grandparents had done the same job, as had my Aunt and Uncle. My parents generation and those before perhaps didn’t have the choices we have today. They often followed in the family trade and kept a job for life.

These days there is a belief that we can be anything we want to be, unless you are heir to the throne, then I’m afraid it’s the family business for you sunshine.

I don’t even think asking a child what they want to be is a good question. It’s a closed question, although the answer isn’t a yes or no answer, it doesn’t leave room for imagination.

What do you want to be when you grow up?


“A train driver”

“A Pop star”

“A footballer”

And another thing, what’s with the notion of growing up?

I’ve been 36 for a long time. I was caught off guard last week when a reporter asked my age and I told the truth, he printed my age in the paper, Why? What has my age to do with anything?

But it’s this idea of being grown up. I left college at 20, was I grown up? Was I hell!

I’m …. Years old now, am I grown up, not always.

My dad’s in his 80s, and sometimes can act more like a child than any kid I know. I think we should scrap this notion of being grown up, I don’t believe there is such a thing.

How about we re-phrase the question and instead of asking the closed, uninspiring question of pick one job and that’s your lot, how about this.

Adult:    “What do you like doing?”

Child:   “I dunno, singing I guess”

Adult & Child: So how many jobs can we think of to do with singing?

Pop star, opera singer, backing singer, recording manager, stage hand, prop designer, costume designer, singing teacher, musician, pianist, composer, theatre director…

No longer is the child aiming for one goal, but exploring a whole world of imagination.

So, why have I been thinking about this?

When I was a wee kid, my dad taught me my party trick. I’d stand with hands on hips and say in a cheeky voice, “when I grow up, I’m going to be a proper little madam”. Some would argue that the dream came true.

I honestly don’t know whether my desire to be an officer was from my mum, from God, or simply that I saw no other option. It seemed to be the natural course of my life and I don’t remember thinking of becoming (or being offered) anything else.

When I went to my interview at University I was asked a question that today still makes me think.

“If you could be anything, what would you be?”

I don’t think anyone ever really asked me that before. I’ve reached the point where I pass for a grown up, yet I still didn’t have a clear aim. I’d just got myself a teaching qualification and wanted the next level, but needed a degree. So that’s why I applied to Uni, plus I needed to do something to kick me up the backside and get me out of my disability comfort zone.

When I go back to Uni in a few weeks I have to start looking into my intern year and wow, I have no idea what I want to do.

It’s like I’ve lived my life on Mars bars and suddenly I’ve found a whole sweet shop at my disposal.

So, instead of thinking what I want to be as a grown up I’m asking an alternative question and hope you will join in with any suggestions.

What do I like doing?

Knitting and crochet, spinning wool, writing knitting and crochet patterns, making dolls and teaching. Oh, and doing something for a good charity.

So how many jobs can we think of? (JOIN IN PLEASE)

Working at Rowan, doing anything –  I’d even make tea, but hopefully get to do other stuff too.

Working at Sirdar

Working in a spinning mill like Yorkshire spinners

Making dolls

Selling my stuff

Teaching at Swarthmore or a similar centre

Running craft classes for a charity or with vulnerable adults.

Doing something craftivism


Doing spinning demonstrations at the next wool week, and why not?

Working in a museum

Writing patterns

Organising a knitting event

Recycling yarn

Being a bit of a wool historian

Hopefully you’ll all come up with more ideas, in the meantime, here is a picture of me, being a grown up singer. Not a famous pop star, and a bit like where’s Wally, but I’m singing with the London Philharmonic in the Royal Albert Hall at the Proms. (I’m to the left of the organ, middle row, fourth from the edge!)

Published by bettyvirago

Betty Virago is an award winning textile designer. Based in Yorkshire, England, and known for her Northern Folk dolls and the Quilts of Hope project.

5 thoughts on “When I grow up…

  1. My friend seems to have got your dream job…she got head hunted to do some extreme crochet, crochets project samples for a pattern design company, works a day or 2 in a craft shop, make stuff and sells it and takes cake commissions!! People always thought I’d have a creative career…but save teaching 4 crochet workshops once upon a time and voluntarily running my local guild website and social media stream…my crafts have stayed a hobby and not a career.

  2. My lists of like to do is quite similar to yours, and I’m turning it into a craft business, have taught a few spinning classes and demonstrated at many craft shows. Continuing to learn things keeps us young and fulfills dreams.

    1. Keeping young sounds great, I’m up for that. I love the buzz when someone I don’t know buys something I made. It’s true appreciation, rather than mother appreciation (mum’s have to like everything you make, I think it’s the law.)

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