‘So what do you want to be when you grow up?’
I’ve grown up.
I have realized, the more I grow up, the more difficult it gets to answer that question about myself.
I was infinitely more confident regarding what I wanted to be, when I was far from being a grown up. At 24, I have dropped out of one college, switched to a different stream, loathed my decision to switch, questioned myself regarding the stream I am in right now & I’m constantly anxious regarding the numerous other fields that I haven’t explored yet.
‘What happened?’ You may ask. To be extremely honest, I don’t know. I planned my life out at 16, just like you did. Smooth and simple, fool-proof plan. Graduation by 22, well-paying job by 24, higher-education by 25, updating a sentimental status on how I am indebted to people around me and my elders for helping me crack the unimaginably tough XYZ examination at 26, leaving the country shortly afterwards and then occasionally posting about how nostalgic I feel about India. Had it all figured out. I’d be a multi-millionaire by 28 so I can make it to Forbes 30 under 30 list, miraculously meet the love of my life at one of the Forbes Summit that we both are invited to, get married, have kids, live lavishly, die. Master-plan to a happy career and fulfilling life at 16! Nailed it.
But what the hell happened?!
It’ll be so very clichéd to say “Life happened!”. Although, what really happened is ,I got to know myself better and my ideals started changing with time. Till high-school, the concept of a perfect life and a career was restricted to what was made popular by Bollywood movies and the Aunt next-door. At 24, I realized, that ‘ what do you want to be when you grow up?’ was the wrong question to ask, in the first place. It really isn’t about WHAT do you want to be, what you should rather ask yourself is ‘What will you be willing to work for on a daily basis? What is the reality that you want to wake up to everyday of your life?”
Designation vs Determination:
The first question makes you think about what designation/ job profile you want to have or want to be known for. I mean, who doesn’t want to be the CEO of a billion dollar petroleum start up? Or the first astronaut to have landed on a different galaxy? Or the engineer who developed a software that directly downloads food from your laptop. I could think of so many things, the doctor who found an antidote to cancer, the President who eradicated corruption, the scientist who made invisible automobile transportation a reality! Given a chance, I’d want to be all of them in a single lifetime! But the question is, am I willing to work for them?
You’ve guessed it! Nope,I’m not willing to stare at my laptop screen for five decades of my life, devour books on software development, learn and practice writing codes, run them and fail at downloading food instantly,yet continue trying for the rest of my life, sounds ridiculous now. The idea of working at a laboratory for years, looking at gooey biopsy specimens, trying and testing various pharmacological drugs day in and out, without any assurance if I’ll ever cure cancer, doesn’t sound very alluring ,suddenly. Therefore, however glamorous the end result is, it doesn’t matter when most of my life I will be doing unglamorous, repetitive, seemingly uninteresting things to get there. Not only that, there’s also lack of money and appreciation, uncertainty, danger, hopelessness and depression associated with it.
What really matters:
So how do I decide what do I REALLY want to do with my life? Don’t give me silly lectures on ‘purpose’ and ‘calling’. I wasn’t born with a guide-book. I wasn’t even born with a burning ‘passion’ to save the world. I can’t pretend to love my job without questioning it. Not that there’s something wrong with living an ordinary life. It’s a blessing to be able to embrace being ordinary when we’re conditioned since our birth to be GREAT. What’s being great, anyway? There’s no war, or depression, or inter-galactic alien attack. How the fuck to be great?!
I wonder what it actually boils down to. The validation of proving yourself to the world, will effectively last for a week, or even less. People will appreciate, people will talk, people will criticize, people will forget,according to their will. You can’t control that shit. Proving your worth to yourself and being satisfied with what you’re doing every day, worked for me. What really helped me is to explore various fields and to find that particular thing that I’d love doing every single day even without external validation. Trust me,the thing that you genuinely like doing, will NOT make you cringe on a Monday morning. Here’s to figuring out a life that you do not need a vacation from and to looking forward to more Monday mornings, for a change !