January 2016 (perspective of an assistant professor)
I was rummaging through old files in Dropbox and found this document from 1995. Back then I was 11 years old and in 6th grade. This was a homework assignment about what I envisioned myself doing as an adult. Click to see a full-size version:
My prediction was spot-on! Even though I don't work on computer games, I do develop interactive graphical applications for my research. I've even spent two summers at Microsoft. I'm really amused that my childhood dream was so down-to-earth – working a nine-to-five, hunched over a glowing computer screen. Nothing about trying to be an astronaut or pro athlete.
Neither of my parents were engineers or computer scientists. They both came from humanities backgrounds, so they didn't know how to directly cultivate my fledgling technical interests. However, they invested in my future as best as they could by giving me unfettered access to our family computer and not protesting too loudly whenever I destroyed the operating system. More importantly, they cultivated a supportive home environment that fostered academic excellence so that I would eventually be able to move onto college and graduate school – places where I could finally find like-minded peers and begin to work toward my childhood dreams. I'll always be grateful for those intangible gifts.