When I was four years old, my pre-school teacher told the all the kids in my class to draw a picture of what we wanted to be when we grew up. Many of them sketched figures of people representing the typical dream jobs for kids at that age: a police officer, an astronaut, a princess, a pop star. One girl just drew a dilapidated stick figure holding a sack of money, and when the teacher we all called Missy asked her what that meant, she innocently replied something her mother had muttered often: “Marry rich.” Clearly, she was destined to dig for gold, and not just in her nose.
When Missy made her way over to my carpet square to check on my drawing, she paused for a brief moment. She picked up my drawing and about died laughing. Apparently, what I had scrawled onto the page was so hilarious, Missy had to bring in the teacher from the other room, Ms. Amy, to gawk at my drawing.
“Dillon,” Missy spit out, still half-chuckling. “Tell Ms. Amy, what you want to be when you grow up.”
“A doctor,” I said.
Both Missy and Ms. Amy were in tears, as they found it hysterical that a brown Indian-looking kid was programmed at a young age to want to be a doctor. I just fed the stereotype. For some reason, they found more humor in my “aspirations” than in the girl who wanted to marry rich.
At young age, we are taught that we can do whatever we want in this world. That we are all just special snowflakes that offer the world a little something special that no one else can or ever will offer.
Recently, my Facebook newsfeed is filled with posts from several people from my high school whose broadest aspirations have condensed into more pragmatic occupations. Most kids, when they grow up, shed their dream jobs and aspirations for a more realistic or monetarily fruitful job. Instead of jamming as a rock star, they became a receptionist at a dentist’s office. Rather than be a famous Hollywood actor, they get hired as a high school drama teacher. Being an All-Star basketball player? More like selling insurance at Allstate.
When I went back home to Fort Wayne for winter break, many of friends told me that as they had grown older, they learned the limitations of what they can do or want to do. An increasing societal pressure pushes them into the best path for them to a job that provides them a stable life. For some, they settle into a life that isn’t exactly what they had in mind.
I’m not suggesting that we should all follow our childhood passions or that people don’t pursue their childhood dream jobs. I’m also not saying that kids at a young age might not follow an interest like space or putting things together into a type of engineering. There will always be vestiges of our childhood loves in our future selves and occupations. But I am saying is that unpredictability in our lives can sometimes slap away our carefree childhood dreams and replace them with gripping realizations of reality—and that to me is a little sad and a part of growing up that doesn’t sit well with me.
The unfortunate consequence is that our creativity and passion for obtaining a truly unique job that suits our interests has a greater potential to suffocate. We tend to channel that creativity into hobbies or side activities rather than making it our full-time position. It’s like Billy Joel’s “Piano Man,” where everyone has this secret desire to be something else in the world, but everyone is trapped in the rut of their current lives.
Things have changed since that faithful day when I was four. It’s been more of a Benjamin Button evolution for my thought process—thinking more as a child than as an adult. I don’t want to be a doctor anymore. I just want to write, a path that is notorious for producing a gestalt of starving artists (If my mother is reading this, I’m totally just kidding. Your $60K/year is going to spawn you a medical professional).
Being at Duke, we are often taught to mix and mash the disciplines. To challenge the status quo. And I think that is part of the reason why I’ve been pushed out of the box of being something that I’ve been primed for at a young age and truly assessed my aptitudes and interests to attempt in forging a career that combines my love for storytelling and commentary through a visual medium. Something that helps people understand the world around them rather than beyond their general line of sight. Something that perhaps is a narrower, more unknown path to success than a doctor.
I guess if it doesn’t work out, I could always marry rich.
Dillon Fernando is a Trinity sophomore and Playground editor.
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