How many times have we asked kids, “Beta what do you want to become when you grow up?” or have been asked the question in when we were young. Countless? And how many times do you think the answers were taken seriously? Never? Well, if you did not live in the same house with the person then you are probably right. Is asking a child his/her aim in life, just a conversation starter? Are we putting unnecessary pressure on the kid to have an ambition in the first place? And then tell them that their ambition is not worth having because it does not meet the approval of what we, their parent, neighbour, friend, or a random stranger, believe in. Do we crush their dreams, consciously or unknowingly, before they can even understand them?
JM Barrie, in ‘The Little Minister’, said – “The Life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares volumes as it is with what he vowed to make it.”
We all write and re-write the story that we want our life to be. How much of it is done willingly?
Parents are our gateway to the outside world. When we are young we aspire to be as smart as our Daddy and Mommy. What we see and interpret about the situations, idea and people around us, are all shaped by how our parents think. Our aim in early years is to be worthy of the love of our family. And we do everything to please them. At the same time, parents want to protect and give the best nurturing environment to their offspring.
Result, parents think that their child’s career is their responsibility. They measure their efficiency, as a parent, on the achievements of their child. And not surprisingly they end up pushing their ‘oh so fragile kid for the best available career. The child becomes a project. Give them best education, best resources that money can buy, best of everything. To be fair, the kids do seem to be not sure of what they want. They are looking for guidance, and parents provide them with this. The problem starts when the same kid after a few year, finally discovers he wants to do something, but that’s not in line with what the parents have been preparing him/her for, and are prepared for themselves. Now what? Has the project failed? Will you push your views to achieve the result that was stated in the beginning of the project or will you be adaptable enough to let the child grow, learn, transform his dreams? This is not easy. More often than not, kids end up being surrogates for their parents’ unfulfilled dreams.
So will getting parents off our back help? I work with underprivileged kids. Kids whose parents have no idea what options are available. And they let the kid decide what he really wants. That should work better right? No, it does not. The child lacks a mentor, someone to coax them, guide them when they stray, clarify their doubts when they have one. Their lack of experience and exposure limits to what they dream, and what they achieve.
A much more obvious, but much less easy to deal with, when your ideas are not ‘Normal’ is the societal pressure. When the House no.3 aunty, she means well by the way, snorts after you tell her that you are pursuing a career in graphic designing, will waiver the confidence of any talented youngster. Our society is a self-appointed judge, more like a statistician, who likes only those points which lie well within the ‘acceptable’ curve. They do not like, understand the outliers and that irritates them. The next thing you know, you are being compared with the who’s who (?) of the world. The surest way to diminish someone’s morale is by comparing him to his friends, siblings, or the unknown son of an unknown friend of friend. “Your brother is so good at math, how did you fail?”, “Mr Sharma’s son got Computer seat in IIT” – will have the desired effect. The kid will spend more time with his math books, than he earlier used to. At what cost? Neglecting something he is both passionate about and good at – painting. He will spend all his time on something that his brain can’t comprehend, and no time on that he loves.
If someone is lucky to cross all the above obstacles, there is still one enemy that one has to fight to achieve one’s dreams: Self Doubt. ‘I like this, but I am good enough to succeed in it?’, ‘what if I don’t’; ‘Are people right – am I making a mistake?’; ‘Am I ready?’;’ What will people say if I don’t succeed?’ Believing in oneself is mandatory to have a future one dreams of. This faith gives us the strength to fight the external pressures.