I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I was a child. But whenever an adult asked me, I would usually say I wanted to be a doctor, or an engineer.
There was no particular reason for it. It was just formulaic. Where and when I grew up, it was sort of expected that a child would give those answers when asked about their dreams.
I don’t know where it all began or who first implanted the idea. I think it was a social consensus, or imposition, that came from the adult members of the community. They wanted their children to be a doctor or an engineer because these were prestigious professions; professions with money and all the social goods associated with it.
Most children in my village of course did not turn out to be doctors or engineers when they grow up. In fact, only a handful few of us really did make it to be a doctor or an engineer. The rest became everything else: traders, entrepreneurs, teachers, carpenters, artisans, farmers, taxi and pedicab drivers – just every profession you could imagine exist in a society.
Are they happy being what they are?
I don’t know. I’ve never conducted a survey to give a definite answer to the question. But I know with a degree of certainty that they would not have been happy if they had all become what they said they wanted to become: doctors and engineers.
Not everybody is made to be a doctor or an engineer. Everyone is born with their own innate predispositions. Following one’s predisposition – or programmed genes, if you will – is, I suppose, one of the things that can make one’s life feel more fulfilled.
But happiness is not just about the feeling of being fulfilled. It is also about whether or not you feel that your life have been useful for others; whether or not you have made the required sacrifices; whether or not you have performed your duties and services to those – people, ideas, and causes – that matter most to you.
So, in the end, it doesn’t really matter if you become what you’re supposed to become. Life’s trajectory does not always follow a certain linear path that we can always predict with certainty. There are almost always detours – expected or not – that one is forced to take when conditions dictate.
Later in life, when I began to have an awareness of what it meant to have a dream of my own, I looked around and began to discover, one after another, things that fascinated me.
I remember vividly how I was so absorbed with beautiful calendar pictures – of distant places and people – that an idea began to form in my mind how wonderful it would be if I could visit and see them with my own eyes and get in touch with them.
I remember vividly how books, stories, and words captivated my imaginations; how they triggered strange and wonderful pulses in my brain – wondering how such simple things as sketches, curves, and dots on a piece of paper could work the magic of bringing to life sounds, smells, touches, and tastes, and creating imaginations and illusions of motions and actions that, until then, I could only imagine existed in pictures, television, and movies.
I remember many things, and how they ‘helped’ me build my own castle of dreams.
I said to myself then, I did not want to be a doctor, or an engineer. I wanted to be something, someone that would make it possible for me to travel to distant places and meet peoples other than my own; I wanted to become someone who could turn words into pictures, sensations, motions, and actions. The books I read told me that the name of those things were: journalist, diplomat, and author or writer. My mind was set. My dream was built.
But life’s trajectory does not always follow a certain linear path that we can always predict with certainty. There are almost always detours – expected or not – that one is forced to take when conditions dictate. And so it was with me, just when every preparation I had made was set and ready, conditions dictated that I take a detour.
My father was out of job. He was nearly bankrupt and had barely enough money to sustain the family, let alone sending me to college. A practical man that he was, and seeing the strongest predisposition that I had — “You’re good with words; you can explain things well. You’d make an excellent teacher,” that’s what he said — and acknowledging all the preparations I had made, he decided to send me to a two-year diploma study at a teacher’s college.
“I don’t want to be a teacher! I want to be a journalist, a diplomat, or a writer!”
“I can’t afford to send you to a four-year college study, especially one that can’t guarantee you a decent job when you finish …”
I turned quiet. He tried to reassure me, “You can be a teacher and still be all those things.”
And so after a little contemplation, I conceded. He was my father. It was my duty to respect him. He had sacrificed a lot in his life for the happiness of the family, his children. It was my turn to make a sacrifice. It was required of me. I would soon become a salaried teacher and help him pay for my brothers’ and sister’s education. It’s a duty and service to the family – people who mattered most to me, who had been a loved member of it.
It’s years since that scene.
My father was right.
I’m a good teacher. I know I am. And I’m proud of it. I’ve also been a diplomat – with minor roles – at one time or another. I represented my country in a number of occasions where some sort of diplomatic skills were required.
I was never sure if I was a journalist. But if blogging counts as a kind of journalism practice, then I’ve also been a journalist. Again, with a minor role.
I know I can write well. After all, language is the name of my game – the same game that writers play. But I have yet to call myself a writer. I don’t know if my father will still make good on this part of his words. But I hope he sees this from Heaven: his son doesn’t want to play a small role of a writer this time. It’s his only childhood dream that’s left unfulfilled.
now that you’re in Heaven, please ask God that He helps you make good on your words that you have given to your son.
Down here, I’ll do my best, and wait.