Dreams, the Future, and What You Are Told

What did you want to be when you were little? Like a lot of people, I changed my mind nearly every day. One day I wanted to be a wedding designer. Then it was a fashion magazine editor. Or a dentist for a split second (because my mom said that’d be a great job). I’ve dreamed about being a fashion designer too, which was fueled by my addiction in watching Project Runway all the time back when I was in middle school. Remember Christian Siriano, anyone? Or Tim Gunn’s sassy, get to work? I gradually realized that none of these industries were realistically for me. Out of all of these jobs I liked the thought of being part of the fashion industry the most, but I didn’t have the faith to become successful in it. It seemed so competitive and nitpicky and I knew that I didn’t have the skills to sew or make clothes myself due to my weak fingers. I wasn’t too sad in letting that dream go, probably because I wasn’t 100% committed to it. Since then, I haven’t pinpointed exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I remember sitting next to my English teacher as a sophomore in high school, divulging to him that I was thinking of majoring in English. It was the only honors course I took in high school and I wasn’t the best in it. We both knew. Still, he encouraged me to pursue it.

“It’s ok if you’re not good at it,” he said. “Do it if you really want to.”

I liked reading – one of my favorite feelings was sitting on my couch on a quiet afternoon home alone, silently gasping at a brilliantly witty line, highlighting it, and just gazing at the page, wondering how in the world someone could come up with such a touching quote. I did this reading Huckleberry Finn and The Things They Carried among many other novels. But I didn’t know if I truly, truly liked English so I already made up my mind right then and there, as I sat next to my English teacher that I probably wasn’t going to major in it. Fast forward to five years later (I left high school early) I graduated from college with a major in English. I learned that just because you like reading doesn’t mean that you’re good at critically analyzing text and forming ideas of your own to write original essays. I also learned that even though I had those days when I cried in frustration over papers (seriously, yeah, I know – I’m embarrassed now) I loved my major. It really did broaden my mind by teaching me about feminism, how society tends to rigidly categorize, and brought into focus things that are normally considered taboo.

I never regretted majoring in English albeit I had some doubts about it during college. Simply put, I did what I wanted to do and to me, that brought happiness. Right now though, as a recent college graduate, I’m contemplating if I can look at life by avoiding a this or that system – do either what you love, or do something to earn good money. I’m aware that a lot of the fields in the humanities aren’t lucrative and my Sociology professor in college warned me about this. Maybe I’m naïve in saying this, but why can’t I combine the two – do what I love and make good money – with my degree? Why settle if you know that you can do something great? Perhaps I’m being too hopeful, but I’m determined to make my knowledge and learning purposeful – and I think they are because they’re fundamental bricks that remind everyone to grow into a better person. Sympathy from learning more about the human condition is critical to being able to practice compassion and develop an open mind, which I believe are necessary for both honest and efficient connections in this world. These past months after graduation have compelled me to think over and over again: what is it that I really want to do? It has made me look back at my past to search for clues from my six-year-old self that dreamed of doing something without letting society or responsibilities get in the way.

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