Saturday, March 07, 2009

When you grow up....

...what do you want to become?'

Mom wanted a doctor in the family, so I was expected to say, 'doctor'. Or, as was fashionable in those days, 'engineer,' though I never knew what the hell those terms meant. Then there was this astrologer, a friend of Dad's who'd proclaimed,'professor,'--another fancy term. So the answers would revolve around these three things although I'd whisper under my breath,'I don't want to grow up, you morons.'

These must be really stubborn questions, asked around the world of every child by well-meaning(?) parents, relatives, even strangers. A guy from Poland had come to attend our meditation classes and when I was taking him around, he caught hold of a young boy of 10 and asked him the same darn question. 'Astro-physicist!!' pat came the reply. 'Not bad. Not bad,' amidst gusts of laughter. The polish guy was a seeker, who'd come to India in search of the occult and the first thing he'd asked me was, 'Is your Guru enlightened?' What I'd have loved to ask him, me a doc-engineered-professor, was 'What was your answer to the well-meaning question, in your childhood? And have you become that?' Seeker? Not by a long stretch. What are the answers given by children in different cultures? Writer? Actor? Scientist? Businessman? Politician? Are there any cultures which don't ask these questions and don't expect any answers from their youngsters? Maybe someone should conduct a survey and find out what percentage of these predictions/aspirations have come true?

My niece is a little over 15 and her answer is 'opthalmologist'. 'What's that?' I ask and she says,'eye-specialist'. 'Why? Do you like being an eye specialist?' and she has a confident,'Yes'. Until recently the answer was 'advocate,' because her grandpa is also one.

'What about your son?' and I gnarl. 'Relax,' she soothes. 'Let them have their say'. My son has an ear for music and rythme, 'so he'll become a musician.' He whacks the ball real hard...'cricketer!' He loves to dance, ' star? Yeah, why not?'

This obsession with the material success-recognition-fame and a subtle grooming we're subjected to from a very young age, is quite amusing. And disturbing also. It's as if you're bound to fall behind and lose out in the race of life if the goal is not set at a very young age. There are off-beat answers too! 'Artist,' says my friend of his three year old. 'Parents have to watch the child and find out at a young age what her interests are. And then provide opportunities ...'

No qualms about that. A quote I still remember 'If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans'. And another one: 'A seeker gets only what he seeks. His choices are limited. An explorer finds much more because he has no fixed agenda.' More seekers of pretty ordinary things, many of us seem to have become. Fearful of exploring. Scared of moving out without any agenda. Without a compass. And deciding the compass beforehand for our kids too.

Scared of living. Enough if we can just make a living.

* * *

I thought I could do a lot only if I had all the time in the world. Wrong. Throw me a large chunck of time and I'll laze. The more restricted my time is, the more productively I seem to use it.


  1. Very true... Personally, I believe that a lot of people who turn out to be truly passionate about what they do, good at their profession - often don't have a clue on what exactly they want to "become" until they become it!

  2. *falls off the chair, gets up and pinches oneself hard *
    Hallo there, what a surprise! You've come back out of the void, so to say!!! How're you? Long, long, long time, no see. How're things at your end?

  3. when i was a child, i wanted to become a math teacher. but i didn't become one. i didn't even major in education. and my work now is unfortunately not related to what i studied back at the university.

    but if it's not because of what i've been through, i would never know what i really want in my life. now i see a path. it's not as clear as i want it to be but i hope to get there in time.

    very nice post. :) you've got a talent in writing. by the way, could you tell me the link about your son's post? i want to read it. thanks. :)

  4. As a child I wanted to be an actress. Then in high school I was thinking lawyer or writer. But I ended up in education. It was not my passion but it was very rewarding career. I do love sharing all that I know. Now I am working on the explorer part of my life. My son wanted to be a paleontologist but ended up a sound engineer and musician and composer.

    You have great insights in this post.

  5. Kikit....the link is

    I've seen this pattern with many of my friends...what we study often doesn't turn out into what we do later in life. More often than not, we learn much much more in life after school/college than in our early study years. But it's amazing how little this truth is recognized.

    Tabor....amidst all that I wanted to become, in childhood, somewhere I wanted to write. I used to scribble, translate a few stories...and that dream still lives on, partly accomplished through blogging. Maybe more than the answers that are forced upon us, it's the dreams that are hidden deep within that need to be nurtured. And I think it's never too late to wake up to them.

  6. Vishwa,
    The childhood ambitions probably never become realities.

    I was introduced to Asterix when I was about 9 and I wanted to become the cartoon character. Later in middle school when I began reading detective based novels of the Hardy Boys, Famous Five, Alfred Hitchcock and later Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie, becoming a detective was all that I fantasised, as it captivated my imagination so much.

    Somehow at a stage becoming a fighter pilot was every child’s (male) dream.

    We are also influenced strongly by a few role models of our life and their views. Also standing out and being prominent among the peer group was a sub-conscious act as a student. Doing something out of the ordinary is what we try to fantasise.

    Unfortunately the culture in India where we live is very limited by the disciplines we can get into and sadly the majority are into professions that have little or no relevance to what they studied earlier.

    Hope improvement in our educations sector can come into this area where the talents and potentials of the child can be observed and nurtured through his schooling days of 10 years, so that when he next goes into university he will know the best areas that he can excel in rather becoming the engineer, doctor, professor!

    You expressed this part well in your comments that it is never late to wake up to our dreams that are hidden deep inside.

  7. So can a child know what it wants to be? I think the best part of being a child is getting to change your mind about what you want 'to be'.
    One of my brothers ran the whole gamut of professions from policeman to doctor and finally ended up as an engineer! I remember, when my daughter was small, she would be influenced by people she had just met. So when we came back from a visit to the doctor, she would be a 'doctor' for a few days, scribbling out prescriptions; another time she would be an air hostess, and yet another, a vegetable seller!
    Why do we ask children these questions? Why don't we just let them be children, and just 'be'?

  8. Some people are fortunate, but the few, to actually live a childhood dream and turn it into a career. Take for instance, my dad being a musician. When he was five, his sister played the accordion. Out of a challenge, and thinking he could be better than his sister, he took up the instrument as well. He soon later progressed to piano, then into bands, and over the years, became his own international act.

    Growing up in having a musical father only inspired me to be creative, to maybe to do music, or to draw, or to write, because I was really good at those, but for some reason or another, my childhood dreams, which were to become an artist-singer-architect....I decided to pursue meteorology as I had been fascinated with the weather.

    I'm sure I blogged it before, but I had a very detailed dream involving me and a mini-tornado, so later in life took it as a sign to head down that path. I did alright at uni, but along the way, many people asked why I didn't pursue Art or Writing or Music? I barely had any of those subjects as courses.

    I guess I wanted to challenge myself into doing something else,but I realize that I just have the weird tendency for when someone says that I do well in an area, to run in the opposite direction to prove that I can do other things. Soooo strange the logic.

    So now, I find myself married(to a wonderful guy and my bestest friend), living in an international city, in a different country, so far opposite from what I ever imagined....but still have hopes in my creative side.:-/

    Currently and slowly progressing, I am working on a book piece.

  9. Career planning is overrated.Even if we accept the possibility that it all turns out the way we planned, the one single thing we can never plan for is - how do we 'feel' about it when it does happen. You know you can't predict your state of being when you are met with the outcome of your 'perceived' action. It may not even matter to you that you reached a goal. What matters or attracts your attention and interest 'now 'is the only thing you can be sure of (if you can spot it that is).

  10. Jen....nice to hear about your book in the making. I'd suggest 'The Artist's way' by Julia cameron. I'm onto it right now, amidst many other things :-)

  11. I actually have had that book for years, but never got into it. :-p

  12. I remember my answer to that question. I think even then I realised that change is ever present.

    "First I will be a ballet dancer, then when I am a bit too old for that I will be an air hostess, then later on I shall be a nurse!"

    Indeed I had ballet lessons from the age of four, and still like to dance and have gone back to ballet classes, aged over sixty!!

    I love travelling and air travel, but the drudgery of their job would not be for me!

    I was a Red Cross cadet, but now think of healing in more general terms.

    My career was in librarianship, and as a young child would like to put the books in order on the local library shelves, but to be in charge of a website was something out of the science fiction books I devoured. How exciting was that! More than I could have imagined!!!!

  13. OOOH The Artists Way?! Wonderful, I loved doing the writing exercise, almost as good as blogging. Quite inspirational - why not open it again Jen?