What to be when you grow up

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There’s an ongoing conversation in our house about what we’re going to be when we grow up. Our three kids regularly revisit and revise their career plans – wondering aloud what the best or the coolest job might be.

We’ve told them many times that there’s no need to figure it out yet since they’re only in 6th, 4th and 1st grades. But I understand why they think about it as much as they do. They’re at the age when their life possibilities are as vast as their imaginations.

The boy’s collective career plans include things like historian, professor, investment banker, novelist, computer programmer, video game inventor and drummer. And our youngest, 6-year-old Kate, feels certain she can be a dancer, baton twirler, swim teacher, singer, doctor and veterinarian all at the same time.

As they get older, I won’t try to push them into one direction over the other. It’s important they figure it out for themselves. But I have to admit there’s a part of me that hopes one of the kids ends up being a computer whiz. Specifically, the kind of whiz who can fix what goes wrong.

sick computerAs long as there are computers, there will also be computer problems. Today I’m having one of my own. Some strange, unintentional download has hijacked my Internet browsers and has slowed my computer operation to a speed comparable to an extra lethargic snail. Yesterday I spent nearly two hours searching online for cures. I found plenty of advice from people who had similar issues, and I tried each one of the recommended “fixes.” But none of them worked, and I was left banging my head against a cyber wall.

So I did what I always do in these situations. I sent an S.O.S. email to Don, a semi-retired computer whiz who has bailed us out of computer jams over the years. I imagine that Don might be fully retired by now were it not for the overwhelming demand for his expertise. In today’s digital age, you need a computer expert on speed dial as much as you need a good plumber. Because when things go wrong with either your toilet or your computer, things are bound to get messy and frustrating.

I threw open the door when Don arrived at my home office, so happy to see the computer cavalry ride up to save the day. I explained in detail about what I sensed were elaborate problems with my stricken laptop. Don nodded patiently and then went “clickety-click, click” on the keyboard, waited for a second or two and then said “Okay, that fixed it.”

Part of me rejoiced and the other part of me – the part who’d spent hours trying to fix those same problems – wanted to stomp around the room and wail, “How could it be that easy? Why didn’t it work for me when I tried to fix it?”

But I knew the answer already. I don’t speak “computer” the way Don does. He’s fluent in the language, and all I can say is “hola” and “gracias.” It’s no wonder the computer mocks my pathetic attempts to fix what goes wrong.

In the digital age, knowledge is power. And all the job skills in the world don’t count for much when your computer is down. So kids, please put “computer and software healer” on your list of possible careers because you’ll always be needed, appreciated and admired for what you do.

And to Don and the other IT geniuses who keep our society’s technological wonders in line, we all say “gracias.”

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