When I Grow Up, I Want To Be…

Growing up, it always bothered me when adults asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” They usually asked out of playful curiosity (though I’d later find out that sometimes they’d ask in order to judge a kid’s character, by which they could judge his or her parents’). It’s an almost recklessly carefree question. After all, it’s a kid they’re asking; kids can say whatever they want. Their ignorance empowers them. Adults coax answers out of them by shrouding the truth. They say things like “You can be whatever you want to be” and “If you work hard, it’ll be yours” even though they know very well that life isn’t that simple. 

It’s a loaded question.

As kids get older, many begin to feel the burden of that question. They may even feel the weight of guilt. Guilt for giving answers that might not be true, that might be forced. More than likely, they might not even know what they want.

I thought this was a writing blog, Aidan. Not an Aidan-Doesn’t-Have-Enough-Money-For-Therapy-So-He’ll-Self-Medicate-With-A-Blog-blog. 

Look, there’s a purpose to this, alright?

On my first day of school the teacher had all of us write what our dreams were—what we wanted to do with our “limitless futures.”

“I want to be the president.”

That’s what I said with a big smile, convincing confidence, and a loud applause from my classmates. I could say that because I was a kid.

Reality began to slowly creep in when we immigrated to the USA. I remember standing by the train station at night with my mother waiting for my father who never came. We had about 70 dollars in our pocket and though I don’t remember how my mother’s face was at the time, I can imagine very well now what it probably was like. It was around this time I think my mother began to seed a dream in me of becoming a lawyer (and eventually becoming the president of USA or at least the Vice President if the laws didn’t change). Part of the reason was practical—she believed that a licensed job would allow me to be a good provider as a kid without any roots in the new country. Part of the reason was from observation—I had talent for public speech, performance, and debate. I loved all that stuff. Finally another part of the reason was motherly—if something were to happen to her, she wanted to know that I’d be alright. She wanted her son to at least be able to provide himself with a home and food on the table. I think during the decades of tough years that came after that night it gave her hope to picture her son as a lawyer. 

So when people asked what I wanted to be I had a new answer.

“I want to be a lawyer.”

And for a while I truly did. I had a dream that I recognized to be a little naïve of wanting to help people. Growing up both as both poor and a minority, I experienced hardships that go unnoticed by the majority. People tear apart on the weak and the helpless. Even the hungry feed on those in the same circumstances as they are to fill their own stomachs. I thought it’d be great to become someone who could be the helping hand to those people in need. 

But in hindsight, I could say that and think that because, again, I was a kid. I didn’t know better. I didn’t know the world, and I didn’t know who I was yet. Most of all, there was still the bigger problem of me not having a clue what the world wanted from me or what I wanted from it. 

Don’t get me wrong. I still want to do those things. I worked hard and I was only an application away from entering law school. I still think it’s a noble profession in the right hands and still is a profession capable of being a financially reliable. I probably would have even loved it. And if everything went well the money from the job would have given my family a chance to turn things around and given my mom some break to enjoy her life a bit. 

So why did I decide to take a chunk of my life to try and change the course to become a writer?

I remember sitting in front of the computer screen, staring at the LSAC website. I thought about the future ahead. Three more years of school and then straight into a lifelong career. I remember thinking, Is this what I really want to do with my life?

“No.”

There was something else I wanted. Something more and different. 

Every time I said “I want to be a lawyer” and in all the time between I was just blocking myself from doing what I really wanted to do with my time in this world.

I realized somewhere along the line that being a lawyer was just something to do and that a law degree (or really going to law school) was just a kind of pedigree to prove the value of my existence. It had become a way to give credit to my capabilities as a person to others, my mother, and myself.

A pedigree with Harvard, Stanford, or whatever else of a similar caliber is no joke. But what frightened me a little is how much of a need I felt to have it. A need I still feel a bit today.

I’ll remind you all again what I said at the start of this blog series. I’m still young and I’m still green and I’m not really here to give advice. You really shouldn’t be taking advice from twenty something years old about life anyway. Even an old homeless man have more wisdom about life than a twenty-something year olds.

I’m merely sharing my experience; an experience that is confusing, convoluted, and at times even hypocritical; an experience that’s been more experimental and forced than anything.

In a sense, I’m worse than a child. Worse because, to some extent, I’m not as ignorant as a child would be. Worse still because I have the responsibilities of an adult. But I wanted to define at least part of my life the way *I* wanted it to be. And so, I decided to chase a fool’s dream.

I still want to be all those things that I wanted to be as a lawyer: someone who can help others, someone who can provide for himself, someone who’s a good son and a good father. If push comes to shove and I can’t be the last two things on that list, I’ll give up whatever I’m doing  so that I can.

So what drew me to writing? It wasn’t that I was ever particularly good at English during school, nor was it that I felt particularly gifted. But there’s something about writing, about giving ourselves to our imagination that goes beyond my own (lack of) ability, that makes it transcendent. There’s so much of life I feel dissatisfied with that it’s nice to be able to escape once in a while to a world of my own. With a little imagination we can create a new world and, with a little paper, we can turn that world into reality. And honestly, it’s a gluttonously satisfying experience. 

(Although to be fair, I doubt I’d be very happy in  a perfect, imaginary world.)

Part of me wonders if I’ll eventually get bored with writing if I ever get good at it. However, I’m convinced that I’ll probably never know, and maybe, I don’t need to.

So for now, I want to be a storyteller. Writing is my current medium.

If all else fails, I’ll go to law school. That’ll always be an option waiting for me. Shoot, if everything goes well, I might still go to law school just to have the degree and make one of my mom’s wishes come true.

I’m allowed to say these things because I’m young and I still have time to be reckless and foolish enough to chase my dreams. Because I’m fortunate enough to have the chance to do so. Because I’m selfish enough to take that chance. Because if I were to die right now in some tragic accident, it’s one of the few things I’d regret not doing.

Maybe, in this way, I’m not worse than a child. Maybe this is what it means to be an adult.

All of this. These few short paragraphs represent all the thoughts and feelings and inner turmoil of a conversation that took place, piece by piece, over 15 years. That conversation ended as I sat on the floor of that motel. And when I finished typing the first sentence of my story, of my world, a new one began.

I’m gambling with dreams and paving my way with illusions. Maybe. I’m certainly off the beaten path, the safe road.

It’s been excruciatingly difficult, somewhat frightening, and at times so surreal that I wonder if I really did lose my mind. If all things go wrong, I may never recover.

But then I see the manuscript. The imperfect child given birth from the imagination of an imperfect parent. I wonder if I’ve done it justice and if I’ve done justice to those who have come with me this far. I flip through it and relive the memories contained in each page, each sentence, and even individual words, and my mind fills chaotically with conflicting emotions.

But a small, adamant voice within me says, “I’m glad I did this.”

A smaller voice says, “I’ll make this work.”

“Maybe I can be a writer. Maybe I can be a writer who is also a good son, a good husband, and a good father.”

Simply because I did it. A very real step into the realm of dreams.

P.S. This entry has been the most stressful and the most time consuming work in the blog thus far. When I thought of the topic, I didn’t fully realize how intricate and involved it would be. Even now I’m not entirely happy with this entry and wish there was a room to say much more.  More than that, I’m not even sure if I was able to deliver the message I meant to send. As is, it looks like it’s a bit of a mess. and as my editor recommended, this whole topic may be something I may touch upon again someday for my own sake (he recommended to at least give it a year).

The What do I/you want to be…” question is no joke. 

 

Sorry for the delay everyone! Since it’s been a while just to remind everyone that since this entry was about ‘life’ next entry will be about ‘writing’!

Keep Up With the Updates!
Twitter: @ASAramiru

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