As kids, adults would often ask us again and again in various ways possible, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We used to dismiss this question and answer nonchalantly. However, at some point, that once-so-simple question deepens and complicates: “What do I really want to be?” As we get older, this start to keep us awake at night and haunt us as we begin to make decisions for our life.
My answer to the question kept on changing as I grew up; I blame this on my changing preferences and interests. At 5 years old, I wanted to be a singer. At 8, I wanted to be a fashion designer as inspired by watching Project Runway. At 11, I dreamed of being a pop star. At 13, I wanted to be a surgeon. At 14, I wanted to be a journalist.
However, in my last year in high school, I was asked the same question again. But this time it was different: I wasn’t just being asked what my dream was, I was being asked to decide my future. I was being asked for my future career, what I’ll be doing for the rest of my life.
From then on, I started to consider various aspects and became more practical. I realized I was no longer that kid who thinks she can achieve everything she wants. I was too shy and nervous to become a singer or a pop star. I can’t be a fashion designer because I suck at drawing. Thinking about opening up a body and drawing blood from patients makes me cringe so there was no way I could be a surgeon. I had a passion for writing but I chose to major in IT instead, thinking I could get a job easily with this major. And so I had to let go of my childhood dreams.
Fast forward to the present time, at 20 years old and as a recent college graduate, I am currently stuck. I don’t have any idea on what I want to be nor what I want to do in my life. I have been asking the same question to myself every single day but the answer to the question does not come very easily. Now I often think about the childhood dreams I used to have. They may seem absurd or impossible to reach now but at least I had dreams before. At least then I was actually excited of the future, not caring whether my dreams will come true or not.
To those dreams I used to have, I miss you. I wonder, if I had tried hard and actually pursued you, would things have worked out? I’m sorry that I’ve given you up too soon. Sorry for thinking you were impossible to reach when I haven’t even started yet. At some point, you were the one that pushed me past my limits. You were the ones that kept me going and encouraged me to dream further. For us to have to let go of these wonderful dreams just makes me hopeful that somewhere out there, something much more wonderful awaits.
After much deliberation, I have come to realize that maybe the answer to what we want to be is not something definite. There could be countless possible answers for which we will find out along the way.
I’m still very much unsure about my future, but that’s the thing, no one really is.
It’s like buying a new camera and trying it for the first time. On that first shoot, we realize that the lens is out of focus. As we get used to the new camera, we learn to fix the lens and somehow the pictures we take become much more clearer and sharper. But then we know that we’ll never be able to take the best picture. Why? Because we could always buy a better lens, upgrade to a better camera, and improve ourselves the next day.
“Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom…is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”
— Anthony Bourdain
When we were younger, there were no limitations for our dreams. There was no such thing as the impossible in our world, we could dream about everything we wanted to be – we believed in magic, fairytales, and Santa Claus. But as we get older, we realize the harsh reality of life: not everything is possible. And so we had to let go of our impractical dreams and give up our deepest passions just so we can fit in the world. But doing so, we ended up being so consumed with figuring out our lives that we have forgotten how to live it.
Yes, not everything is possible. But we don’t know yet which ones are possible and which ones aren’t. So we just have to keep on trying, and find them out on our own. We’ve got a lifetime to figure this out, anyway.