When I was in kindergarten, I wanted to be a doctor. Not only because helping others sounded very nice, but also because everybody thought you were bright if you wanted to be a doctor. Being bright was obviously a good thing. Now, if only public opinion of one’s mental capacity translated to actual intelligence…
Anyway, in the years that followed, this dream would change to novelist, then full-time artist, then computer engineer, then scientist.
Late into high school, however, I decided that I wanted to be a single mom. I had decided that I liked kids. But I had also gotten the impression that husbands tend to be unreliable, annoying and not worth the trouble. (I was a smart kid back then, I guess.)
Sadly, even then it was kind-of hard to raise kids without the range of jobs (and paychecks) that a college degree could offer (not to mention that nobody could meet the high standard I had set for the other half of genes I wanted my child to have) so it was off to college I went.
For the first two years of college, I (obviously) wanted to be a nurse. I stubbornly stuck with hectic schedules and memorizing ridiculously long names for ridiculously tiny parts of the body just so I they could put that white cap (that, to date, has no known purpose) on my head in my third year. In the meantime, I secretly wanted to shift course and become a math teacher instead.
For the last two years of college, I thought that I’d see it through and then proceed to medicine and fulfill my childhood dream of becoming a doctor. However, after working with doctors for quite some time, I realized that I actually wanted a life outside of the hospital in the near future. I also realized that med-school cost a fortune. And a fortune I do not have.
After graduation and passing the board examination, I decided that I wanted to win the Nobel Peace Prize, discover a cure for cancer and end world hunger. (At some point, that series of plans may or may not have included a bid for world domination. Maybe. But I’d never admit that. Nope.) The post-graduation high, you might say.
Soon after, I decided to lower my standards. I wanted to live in a small house with a large vegetable and flower garden (and maybe a few trees and, preferably, a pond), raise my own children and do nothing but paint all day.
Why am I sharing this? Well, many dreams such as wealth and success and fame and even family are dependent on things other than myself. In many cases, I have to pass someone else’s standards of intelligence (passing med school), beauty (creating art) or impressiveness (hello, Nobel prize?). I’d need quite a lot of resources or money. (I don’t intend on slaving away for paychecks to fund my dreams.) Hell, in some cases, I’d even need someone else’s chromosomes!
“I want to be a doctor!” but what if you don’t have the money, the time or the brains to be a doctor? “I want to have kids!” but what if you (for biological or social reasons) just can’t?
Dreams like these are important, yes, and we all know of those inspiring people who have transformed their dreams into reality with their brilliance, hard work and/or good fortune.
But what of the others? For every single person who has achieved their dreams, there are probably hundreds (me included) who can’t simply because we are just not brilliant, hardworking or lucky enough. We who are forever doomed to serve as tools in building someone else’s dreams. Not that it’s a bad thing. It’s always nice to work for something bigger than myself. Besides, people who are far more brilliant than I am probably have dreams that can make the world a better place. And I, in fact, do not.
But I also believe that we, the unbrilliant, the kind-of lazy and the out-of-luck should also be able to have this one dream to hang on to: one where we don’t need to impress anybody else other than ourselves in order to be happy. Don’t get me wrong: Working for someone or something else is fine. It can even be fulfilling. But everyone should have something they can call their own.
Which is why I now think I’m absolutely sure what I want in life:
One day, I’m going to take an indefinite leave from work, rent an apartment and live on nothing but foraged vegetables, homemade cheese and my parents’ table scraps. And then I am going to lock myself up in that apartment and do nothing but make stuff. All day. For the next three years.
I don’t even mean to make anything particularly useful or beautiful. I just want to make whatever I feel like making with whatever I can get my hands on. I just want to tinker with stuff, break stuff, understand stuff, learn some new tricks, build sturdy things, paint pretty things, and whatever.
And at the end of three years, someone will find my curled up in my apartment, lifeless but with a huge grin (and a large, green paint smear) on my face. I will have died of happiness and I will not have regretted a single moment in my life because, if anything, it has lead to three years of nothing but pure creation.
OK, maybe that last bit isn’t at all realistic or desirable. Maybe I will go back to whatever life I have left in that point of time in one peace. And to some, this may be at once a shallow, selfish and ambitious dream. But, hey, given the chances I have at life it’s the very least I can do and be happy. I have other more meaningful dreams. But this one is mine, the one that is dependent on nobody but myself.
As an afterthought, it now strikes me that it’s a luxury that I am able to dream of something so ridiculously simple and selfish. Not everyone can do this, I know. They have to think of their personal survival, their families, and all sorts of noble things. These noble things lead people to dream of higher education, a better job, to go abroad… Things I have all rejected at some point because I am content with a simple life and a simple ambition. Let others have the opportunities I don’t care to have.
Don’t get me wrong, I have bills to pay and tons of things to worry about (some of which are even noble). But I am lucky enough to be secure that I can get by even without a trail of achievements (or money) behind me. (Not to mention that I am lucky enough not to have anyone severely dependent on me. Yet.)
Ambition is such a short word for something so complicated.
“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” – Mahatma Gandhi