When I Grow Up

I’ve always done handyman work since I was a teenager.  It was a great way to make money through high school and college, but now that I’m in my 40’s I’m finding different motivation for going to work every day.

A few years ago my son, Charlie, came to me with a sunken look on his face.  “What’s wrong, Char?”

He sighed, “Well, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”

I put my arm around him and laughed, “Me neither!  Isn’t it great?”

“That’s not helpful, Dad…”  He rolled his eyes.  This 8 year old obviously had a lot on his mind.

“Alright, Charlie, I’ve always evaluated every job I’ve taken using four criteria.  Number 1 - You have to love what you do for a living.”"

“Why?” he asked, “I would just love the money.”

I thought about what he was saying, and remembered all the crappy jobs I’ve taken in the past that paid alright money, but I despised doing.  I never lasted very long at those gigs.  “You have to love what you do, Charlie, because you’ll be doing it a lot.  Imagine doing something that you can’t stand for any length of time.  Day in, day out.  Boring… and you would eventually quit, even if you made a million dollars a year at it.”

I could tell he was following my logic.

“In fact, here’s Number 2 - You have to be willing to do it for free.”

“What?  No way!”

“Way.  Listen, if old Mrs. Smith across the road needed help shoveling her walkway in the winter, you’d help her, right?”

“Yes.” he replied instantly.

“And you wouldn’t expect her to pay you, right?”

He thought for a minute, and said that he wouldn’t want any money from her.  “She’s a little old lady who needs help.  I would just help her and not even think about it.”

I was feeling prouder by the minute.

“Number 3 - You have to constantly learn new things.”

“What do you mean?  Like school?” he asked.

“There’s a lot of learning that happens outside of school, Charlie.  Imagine doing the same thing every day, never learning anything new.  How boring would that be?  Can you imagine doing that kind of job?”

“Nope.  That wouldn’t be any fun.”

“And Number 4 - You have to help people.”

“That makes sense.”  After a pause, Charlie looked at me and he said, “But I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”  I asked him what he was interested in.  He said, “A policeman, a fireman and a pro basketball player.”

I smiled. “Alright, let’s run through the 4 rules.  Would you love all three of those jobs?”


“And would you love those jobs so much that you’d be willing to do them for free?”

“I play basketball for free now!”  We laughed.

I then asked him, “So what would you be learning by doing those jobs?”

He thought for a minute.  “I guess I’d be learning how to put out fires if I was a fireman.”

“And how would you be helping people?” I asked.

“Well, I’d be helping people by saving their lives and houses and stuff.”

“Yep, but what about basketball.  How would you help people there?”

He was quiet for a moment, and then he said, “I can help people by entertaining them when they come to my games… and I can help the other guys on my team who aren’t as good as I am by showing them stuff.”  I could tell the wheels were really turning now.  I put my arm around him again and we laughed.

“So are you still worried about choosing what you want to be when you grow up?” I asked.

“No.” He looked at and asked, “Dad, can we have a BBQ for lunch?”


Rob Boshaw grew up in Peterborough, Ontario, and has called Vancouver home for the past 4 years.  He has worn many hats during his lifetime, but the one he is most proud of is "Dad".  He and his wife, Sharylin, operate Vancouver Handyman Services, and he plays guitar in the Central City Jazz Band.