I think I must have seen at least a dozen American movies where some kid is told that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up. Ah, yes. Inspirational, motivational movies.
But is it true, dear readers? What did you want to be when you were young and in the real world, did you get the support and encouragement to be what you wanted to be or did life slap you down?
My brother wanted to be a veterinarian in his teenage years as he loved animals. My parents convinced a family friend who was a vet to have a heart to heart with my brother to convince him that it was a bad, bad career choice. He was told, it was a dirty job with long hours spent with your arms deep inside some animals behind. Unglamorous and really something only medical school rejects do. Yup, and he made my parent’s happy when he decided on being a doctor instead.
In my case, my parents did not have to resort to such tactics. I got my slap down from other sources.
After giving up the idea of being a superhero (couldn’t find any radioactive spiders), my very first dream was to grow up to be a psychologist. My reasoning was sound. I believed that I had a natural instinct about people; I was fascinated by what motivates people and unlike being a psychiatrist, a psychologist did not need to waste 5 years doing a medical degree and I hated blood. What else could I possibly want to be?!?!
Well, a group of my friends decided to corner me and stage an intervention. Basically, they had one important message for me…….”Are You MAD????” The prevailing attitude to mental health issues in Malaysia at that time was to make nervous jokes and try to lock people away and hide the problem. Patients and therapists were not highly regarded. Now normally, I wouldn’t have allowed them to do this but there was this cute girl that I wanted to get to know better and she was part of the intervention team and so……….
If only I was a trained psychologist, I would have know how to handle the situation better!
But later, I was certain that I wanted to be a scientist and not just any run of the mill scientist either. I wanted to be a ‘mad’ scientist.
Now for my Biology course during ‘A’ levels (equivalent to American High School), I was required to do a science project as part of my final evaluation. I proposed with enthusiasm a project in the area of development biology in which I would study what early life behaviours were instinctive or inherited or learned and whether they could be un-learned. Without going into detail, suffice to say that it involved baby rats and some judicious application of rewards and positive reinforcements (food) and negative stimuli (electric shocks).
My teacher’s response was “Are You Blinking Mad?” Well, I mean, that’s the whole point of being a mad scientist, isn’t it? Anyway he refused to give me permission to do it. Instead, I had to watch some plants grow ever so slowly under different light conditions which is exactly as boring as it sounds. And so today I am not the mad scientist I wanted to be. I blame my teacher.
Were your childhood aspirations similarly thwarted? Who did this injustice to you?