Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ambitions and the System

What do you want to do? What do you aim for? What are your plans in life?

These are the seemingly innocent questions that often put me on the spot. They're supposed to be easy to answer- and I guess that's the way they are to other people- but these are the questions that have become increasingly hard to answer over the years. When you're five years old and you answer by claiming that you'll be the president of the country who will solve the problems of poverty, people will chuckle and encourage you. Try saying that at the age of 20 and they'll smile reluctantly before gently coaxing you into taking a more "reasonable" path.

It's ridiculous, isn't it? It's the same dream but their reactions change depending on your age. Apparently, it's okay to dream big while your young. I suppose the adults chuck it up to naivety. They'll even think of you as noble and selfless. But as you grow older, you're supposed to scale down your dreams. Be realistic, they'll say. Sometimes, they don't even have to say it because you yourself will feel the world's pressure to think smaller.

It makes me sad to see this happen. Even more so to see myself do this very thing. I've lost the ability to answer people when they ask me about my aspirations. Usually, it's because I feel so beaten down by the harsh realities of life that it seems as though all the things I want to do can't be done. But, there are those times when I feel hopeful- invincible, even. Those are the times when I allow myself to dream big, to admit to myself that I want to do great things for myself, for my family, for my country, and for the world.

It's hard to be optimistic about these things, though. Because even the schools which supposedly provide us with the education we need to be successful in life teach us to be "realistic". They ask us to think of our finances, our IQ, our skills, the opportunities available to us. They keep pointing at the negative things. It's funny because I remember in pre-school how the teachers so insistently told us that we could be anything we wanted to be when we grow up. But as we go through the educational system, they start telling us that it's okay to fail, that not everyone can be the best. After all, how could there be a winner without losers, right?

It's silly. I know this. But even I have to admit that no matter how much I rebel against the educational system that attempts to change our very unique selves into uniform, mindless robots, I've fallen victim to their ploy. My dreams have grown smaller and smaller until they disappeared entirely. There are times when I've become complacent to the system. I took things as they were given to me and I was satisfied with the knowledge of meeting their low expectations.

Am I being arrogant right now? To some I might appear so. But, I don't have time to appease everyone's sensitivities. The fact remains that we are all truly capable of doing great things. We all have what it takes to influence the system. We just need to bring that potential out. I believe that we were all born with raw talent that needs to be honed. If the system we rely on to do that, if the society we believe should be responsible for making that happen become incapable of doing it, shouldn't we just decide to do it ourselves?

I probably sound like a naive, little girl to many adults out there and maybe I am one. I admit that I hold certain ideologies that die down in most people as they age, but I refuse to let go of them. What's so wrong with aiming for an ideal world? For a different world? All I'm really saying is that we should recognize our own potentials. Everyone can be great, we just need to set higher expectations for ourselves. If the people around us aren't going to challenge us, we should challenge ourselves.

I just want to live in a world where it's okay to dream of setting up an orphanage without having people think you're crazy. I want to live in a world where I can say that I want to be both a skilled surgeon and an exceptional writer without being called naive. I want to live in a world where it's okay to be ambitious.

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