… I want to be an alien when I’m older.
… I want to be an ice cream man.
… I want to write letters and adopt a turtle.
I like the thought of adopting a turtle, maybe I’ll add it to my non existent bucket list one day but for now, I want to address how these seemingly innocent career choices don’t seem to cut it anymore.
Where’s the harm in a ten year old wanting to sell ice cream? Scrap that, what’s the harm in being an alien? It looked like we had it figured out when we were younger, determined to be the best letter writer there ever was. But as you grow older and your childhood innocence gets replaced with teen angst and later, adulthood not seeming too far away, you realise that your life long dream of being an alien and adopting a turtle just isn’t going to pay the bills. Or it is, but it just isn’t ‘good enough’. sigh.
Coming from an Asian background, there are only three fields known to man. How to handle the law. How to handle the money. And how to handle the health. (Lawyer, Accountant and Doctor in case you haven’t figured it out). I’m thankful that my parents didn’t push me to any of these areas, sure they tried to provide some inspiration… but for the most part, something changed when I decided that becoming a ballet dancer was not enough. Which is weird, seeing as I’ve never taken a pointy step forward ever but you catch my drift.
If I wasn’t going to become a ballet dancer, what was I going to be?
Insert panic mode and I suddenly found myself trying to grasp any old good sounding career or job title that was to determine my future. I was only sixteen.
At sixteen, I remember filling out college applications (UK education system here guys) and there was a section that went along the lines of “What do you imagine yourself doing in the future and why?”. Crap. I knew I wanted to become a lawyer, but when you struggle to find a reason why… you should probably take that as a indicator for FIND ANOTHER CAREER. But that didn’t stop me from questioning my career choice. Instead, I wrote that I aimed to become a lawyer in the future, justifying my decisions to take Law, English Language and Sociology as my A Levels (I took Media too in case anyone was curious). The reason why I wrote, “to provide a voice for those who are unable to speak for themselves” and as real as the ink seemed on the paper, it didn’t feel real. Not as a lawyer. Remember, I was only sixteen. The thing that probably scared me was the fact that your A Level choices could restrict you in what you wanted to do in university, an ultimately, becoming a hurdle if you decided to do something else.
So I would’ve been pretty much screwed had I wanted to go into medicine or do something related to accounting. The path seemed to be fixed towards going into law and as much as I enjoyed learning about law during my first year at college, in reality, I sucked at the exams, never managing to score above a D in any of them. This was probably the first time I really questioned whether I wanted to become a Lawyer. I sort of cursed myself for not making an easy decision. Why couldn’t I have had the desire to become a teacher or some sort of support worker?
The problem was I really didn’t know what I wanted to do.
I didn’t have a passion for law, nor did I have a passion for any of the career choices that was presented to me at a career’s fair. This really hit my confidence and made me really anxious, especially since we were going to start university application really soon. And they wanted to know what plans you had for yourself. Which makes writing a personal statement incredibly daunting when you don’t know what you were going to do for a living.
What was really important for me was to choose a career that I was going to enjoy. And that was hard, especially since I didn’t quite know what I liked. I mean, I knew what I didn’t liked which really narrowed the search but at the speed in which I was dismissing all these paths, what was going to be left?
It’s scary how we are expected to know where we are headed in life so early on without experiencing it. We’re still just babies when we’re supposed to write down what we want to do ‘when we’re older’. No wonder we suck at informed making decisions.
Fortunately, at the end of my first year, I made a decision. And for the first time ever, when I uttered the words “to provide a voice to those who are unable to speak for themselves”, I didn’t feel like a fraud. The decision to become a Speech and Language Therapist came about when my younger brother needed a therapist to help improve his communication. I think this goes back to how our own life experiences can impact our decisions and how not living enough of life, makes it hard to know what we want to do. I could write a whole other post on my decisions in wanting to become a SaLT so I’ll spare you guys the details.
But despite knowing what I wanted to do, it suddenly dawned on me that I would have to take a different route than the conventional approach. Again, I think it further stresses how we’re having to make such an important decision a such an early age. If there is a sixteen year old capable of making a confident decision about their future career, then they get all the cookies in the cookie jar.
When thinking about what you want to do in the future, stick to something you feel confident with or passionate about and not go for something that’s been thrown at you. And if you still haven’t figured it out completely, then it’s ok. Something else might just come your way.