The Science Behind the Death of Young Dreams

More than just your physical appearance changes with age. Your brain develops in many different ways and can directly affect how you think about your future.

Svein Halvor Halvorsen

More than just your physical appearance changes with age. Your brain develops in many different ways and can directly affect how you think about your future.

Kendra Kreger, Staff Writer

When kids are young, like five or so, they are often asked the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Usually they pump out an answer like a firefighter or an astronaut, maybe even a veterinarian. When they grow older, they change the answer to a receptionist, or a therapist, which are more realistic career choices. Many people, myself included, have wondered why this happens. Why do kids’ imagination and creativity “die” as they get older?

Kids have a lot of creativity when they are young, and they don’t really have the ability to think about the future as well as adolescents or adults. When a five-year-old boy thinks about becoming a firefighter, he doesn’t realize that he might have to see people lose their homes―or even worse, their lives―while he is trying to put out a fire and keep people safe. Instead, he sees  himself in a uniform, heroically fighting fires. He also doesn’t care about how  his salary might not compensate for the fact that he risks his life nearly every day because he doesn’t yet understand the importance of money. Kids live in their own creative world, where there isn’t much logic and reality. But what about that five-year-old who ends up growing up and fulfilling his passion to fly in outer space or make the winning touchdown at the Super Bowl?

“The ones that fulfill their dreams to be an astronaut or a football player all keep the same characteristics from when they were a kid,” said Joe Savage, a licensed therapist at Round Lake High School. “All those people have resilience, drive, and motivation. They are persistent, and they believe in themselves.”

During an interview with Savage, he talked about the brain development of children to adults, and the capabilities of a young mind, explaining why younger people think more creatively about the future. “Children are attracted to things that they are aware of, and younger people don’t have much experience, so they are less aware of careers they could have,” Savage said. “They also bend towards things that seem adventurous and that they could put their imagination into.”

Savage also said when a person is young, they aren’t realistically thinking. “When a child grows to a teenager, their eyes open up to more perspectives, and they realize they have talents that don’t fit the other job’s skills,” Savage said. Say a kid wants to be a train conductor because of Thomas the train. When he grow up, he realizes he can’t do well under pressure, so he decides not to be a train conductor because they have to work very well under stress. That’s an example of realizing what talents fit a career.

 “I think it’s progression of the human mind,” said Jeffrey Baird, the psychology teacher at RLHS. “The main brain development that comes during adolescence into adulthood is the development of the frontal lobe where your ability to reason, problem solve, make judgments, control impulses, plan, and initiate plans are. From this definition alone, one can see that a big difference between the child brain and the adult brain isn’t that one has dreams and the other doesn’t, but that children, armed with uninhibited imaginations can still hold onto the beliefs that anyone can be an astronaut if ‘they want to,’ while adults can think and reason about the path to becoming an astronaut and assess their own capabilities of getting there.”

Baird himself said when he was about 12, he wanted to be a major league baseball player, but he went to college and decided he would have a better shot at being a teacher. However, he currently coaches the RLHS Panthers baseball team.

Baird also said that this type of change in opinions and choices happens to everyone, and the only way to disrupt this process is a lobotomy or other destruction of the brain.

“I think it’s a good thing for people to be realistic with life, but goals can still be set at a high level,” Baird said.

Many students at Round Lake have seen their dreams change with age. Some dreams changed a lot and some changed only a little. “When I was little, I wanted to be a teacher,” said Hannah Gazdzicki, junior at RLHS. “Later on I wanted to be a crime scenes investigator. As of now I am teaching myself sign language to study deaf education, so I can teach students that have deaf disabilities. My love for sign language and working with young kids overpowered my interest in police work.”

“When I was little, I wanted to be a vet or a singer,” said Annjelyze Decarlo, a sophomore at RLHS. “Now, I’m deciding between a culinarian or sticking to being a vet. I think the reason I changed my mind is that as I grew up, I finally understood what I really wanted to do in my life. I’m pretty sure that as I go through life and high school, my career of choice might change again.” When Decarlo was asked why she chose to execute the career of a singer, she replied with, “I’ve been told all my life that my singing is amazing. I’ve sung at church before, so I think it’s the stage fright that changed my mind.”

So, when kids are asked the question of what they want to be when they grow up, they will answer the question with a creative career. Then they get older, and their brains naturally develop. They become logical and comprehend topics easier. Their answer to that question also changes to a career that will fit their talents and personality. When you notice the difference between younger dreams older dreams, you will know that the one to blame is human development.