The situation changes slightly every time but the dreaded question is always the same: “What do you want to do?”
Generally the asker of the question is a well meaning relative but this questions is asked by all to all sometimes within minutes of meeting for the first time. Answering this question would be easy enough if not for the fact that this question is not honest in nature. It would be a fair question if the person answering was not being judged on the “quality” of his or her response.
I can not count the number of times that perplexed reactions, worried glances, and off-hand comments like, “That sounds like a great thing to do on your spare time! What do you want to do for a career though?” have been the responses that I receive upon answering that question.
The reactions that I have received to this question have been the source of many an unfinished blog post and many a sleepless night. It’s strange how the structure and delivery of this question can provoke so much thought on what one’s purpose and dreams are. I learned young that it was best to act like an angsty teenager and to shut down when this question was asked, rather than to answer only to be corrected and told what it is that I really wanted to do but didn’t know yet.
Honestly, I can’t sit here and blame the parents, relatives, and older mentors for trying to steer us into careers that have more earning power. They have seen a lot. For the most part the fear driven mentality stems from experiences of being or seeing those whose financial lack has lead to unhappiness and strife. Naturally, a parent would not wish that kind of suffering upon his or her child. I would do the same to try and give my children their best shot.
This mentality of hiding what I want in order to please the question asker has plagued me to this day. I’ve tricked myself into thinking that I don’t know what it is that I want to do for fear of disappointing those who are watching my life. Parents, significant others, friends, family friends, extended family, I’ve learned how to answer correctly to them all, while losing my own aspirations in the process.
I’ve wondered why I’ve felt this pressure upon the choices I’ve made. I’ve pursued majors that I didn’t want to pursue all the while lying to myself about why I was doing it. I’ve watched my stolen dreams burn and break under the weight of reality as I frantically struggled to make meaning of the lie I had been living.
This post is for my peers.
This is for those of us who find our dreams diametrically opposed to practicality.
Those of us who have erased our childhood dreams and aspirations because we were told to be realistic.
Is it really worth destroying who we are in order to live a life that is “easier?”
I recently realized that I need to care less about the potential timelines that anyone else has proposed to me, and that I need to take responsibility for my own life.
Yeah, it’s going to be tough, but if I can pay my expenses while figuring out what I am going to do with my life that’s good enough for me.
Why live a life that is only meant to please the people whose opinion we care about?
Is counsel from our elders meant to just be flat out ignored? No.
But just because we should heed it doesn’t mean that we should allow the input and approval of others to become our motivation and incentive for pursuing dreams that are not even our own.
Don’t misunderstand me, the point isn’t to go into flat our disrespectful rebellion while being lazy and refusing to work.
By all means, work.
Work the terrible job that you hate.
If it pays the bills be that temp worker that isn’t going to get hired just so the process of discovering who you want to be can begin.
Struggle to find out who you want to be, then when you are ready, go and be that.
Take responsibility for your own choices and your own dreams.
Stop letting people’s approval govern who you choose to be.