What do I want to be when I grow up?

By Ahmed Wafi Rashid

What do I want to be when I grow up? This question has been asked every year in English class throughout the years in elementary school and may be once or twice in secondary school. What I noticed about this question is that the answer changes almost every time the question is asked. When kids go to school in primary one (or grade one, whichever you call it) and they’re told to use their newly acquired knowledge of the alphabets to write a short essay on ‘My ambition’ the answers would vary from firefighters to doctors or may be some ambitious children would want to be presidents and prime ministers.

As for me, the idea of holding a gun tempted me enough to want to be a police officer at the time. Some kids may want to be a batman. I for one did at one point.

When we begin to grow older we begin to see things differently. Obviously  the way we see things depends on our environment and those around us which is why the presence and influence of our parents, siblings and peers are very important, especially during the tender ages of early childhood.

Another very important factor that affects the way we see things is the media. Television in particular. But fortunately, in the age we live today, kids don’t watch much television. However, they are more engrossed in computers, tablets and smartphones which means that they are exposed to the vast universe of the internet. The positive side of this is that kids are exposed to wider scopes of knowledge that the great internet offers. Unfortunately, this is also the downside. There is a lot of knowledge on the internet and although, the number of positive knowledge may outweigh the negative, kids will still be exposed to both and at that age, they may not be able to tell the difference!

Nearing the end of primary school they may be asked to write another essay of the same name and by this time the answers may begin to change. From teachers to athletes, from doctors to musicians, kids want to be what they see on televisions. and who can blame them? They want to be like the people they idolise. Kids will watch Cristiano Ronaldo take a free kick and say, ‘When I grow up, I want to be like him’. I sure would like to be like Ronaldo! However, there will still be children who stay faithful to their ambitions of primary one.

In secondary school, we’ll be slapped in the face with reality as we are nearing the end of our schooling days and will eventually have to choose which path we would like to go to. In Malaysia, students will be assigned their study stream for the last two years of secondary school which is either the arts stream or the sciences stream. The hard part comes after we graduate from secondary school. The dream of playing football like Ronaldo slowly dies out as you choose your college major.

In college and other higher education institutions, we are exposed to a more diverse and different environment compared to that of secondary school. The different clubs and activities around campus plays a vital role in shaping or strengthening the perspective and ambitions of a student. Clubs like the entrepreneurship club or the debating club will help widen one’s horizons. At this point, you think,  ‘Maybe I want to be a journalist when I graduate’.

Note that we begin to say ‘When I graduate’ and not ‘When I grow up’ because the scary reality that we have to face is that we are grown up and it may take years for us to accept this fact. We’ll be in denial for quite some time. Common phrases heard would be, ‘Oh, my gosh can you believe I’m 21 this year!?’ ‘You’re already 22, be more mature’. It’s difficult to accept but there’s no running away from it. This situation will prompt us to hide our dreams of becoming a popstar or athletes because we feel that the dream of becoming that is unrealistic but we want it so bad that we find it hard to let go.

As we eventually mature we will realise that those dreams will begin to slip away. It’s sad to say but it’s the truth. Keep in mind that difficult is not impossible though. We just have to know when to stop.

Personally, when I was in school at one point, I wanted to be a police officer and then I wanted to be Batman and then an athlete and now, I feel like I should take life as it comes. But then again, being Batman is not such a bad idea.***

Photo taken from AOI Communications

Ahmed Wafi

The first step to being good at something is to suck at something. I like running and boats.

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