I was just thinking… What has happened to us? Not all of us, just some…
When we are kids, we are full of dreams… We want to be astronauts, or doctors, or vets, or firemen… We want to be rock stars! We are so full of projects and aspirations. We draw these amazing pieces of art, we sing and feel no shame. We run like the wind (or we like to think so), we are stronger than our dads, and we’re funny. Hey, everyone laughs at our jokes and great ideas.
Some day, someone says to us: “you shouldn’t do this”, or “you can’t be that”, or “that’s a silly idea”, and that’s the end of it all. We may not realise at first, but with every comment about focusing on maths, or about not climbing that tree, or maybe with every time they tell us off for being such clowns, they ask us to start behaving like the big boys and girls we are… A piece of us dies inside.
One of my favourite books ever is The Little Prince. I love the beginning, when the author explains how he used to be creative when a kid, drawing elephants inside boas, and how then he grew up and focused on more serious things, like geography. Every child loves this story, because they all feel identified. We have all gone through that phase in life, when suddenly we were told about all the things we could not or should not do.
I used to draw a lot, I would spend hours drawing. I wasn’t great, but I wasn’t bad either. Somewhere along the line, I stopped. As of now, I have no idea why. I do remember my parents telling me my drawings were great, so it must have been something else, probably the need to focus on my studies, to grow up, who knows.
As children, we don’t have society restrictions, or some preconceptions about how things should be as opposed as how we would like them to be. If we wanted to draw an astronaut, flying into space with a green dog that had a horn like an unicorn, then we could do so. Grown-ups would wonder where we got that crazy idea from, and would ask us why, and then they would explain patiently that dogs are not green, and dogs are not like unicorns. At first, we would think they were the crazy ones, but at some point, possibly with the arrival of a little brother or sister or cousin, we would want to distance ourselves from the children, and we would look at the little kid’s drawing and frown upon a purple dinosaur playing the drums… We would then explain to this little one that purple dinosaurs can’t play the drums… And a grown-up would probably remark that there is no such thing as a purple dinosaur…
We force ourselves into studies we don’t enjoy, so we can have a degree we don’t like in order to work in a job we despise for many years, so we can retire for half the salary and try to survive for the rest of our lives… While we wake up every morning at 7 (…30… OK, 7.45) am, and we think about what to wear for work, we jump into the shower and dream of better places, and better things to do with our lives. They say “if you want to know where your heart is, look where your mind wanders.” I agree.
Whenever I’m letting my mind wander, it goes back to photography, to design, to writing… yet I’m working in Market Research.
Somewhere along the line of my life, I took a left instead of a right. I followed a path that was there, all laid out for me. Don’t get me wrong, I chose this path myself, nobody forced me, but I guess at some point, you’ve been programmed to think about the safe steps you should be taking: full time job, saving money, buying a house, etc. You have been presented with two paths, the one that looks all paved, with nice gardens, maybe a great highway, beautiful views… And the path that looks wild and scary.
Some people, and those are the lucky ones, the great minds out there, choose the wild path, without a doubt, and they accomplish great things in life. When I say “great things” I don’t only mean accomplishing goals, getting money or becoming famous, or loved or whatever, but the Greatest Thing In Life…
What? You don’t know what that is? Happiness.
Let me say it again: Happiness. Yes, capital letter, and bold.
Those people manage to be happy, whatever it is they’re doing: it might be travelling the world, or helping people in developing countries, or maybe just round the corner. It might be someone who left everything they had to start working in a small record shop, just because it was their dream. They’re happy.
I look at them and I admire them. The courage it takes to do what’s in your heart… It’s difficult to take the step that will take you closer to where you want to be, it’s difficult to swim against the current. It’s always easier to pretend to fit in with the plan, and put on a happy mask, even if we’re not happy inside.
Unfortunately, we do this every day: with work, with our families, with our friends, with our hobbies, with our dreams… Even with the music we listen to. We have been programmed to act and think in certain ways, and even when we know we don’t like it, and it doesn’t make us happy, many times we don’t know what’s wrong in our lives… We look at our lives and tell to ourselves: What is wrong with you? You have a good job, you have a family, you have a house… You can go on holidays whenever you want, you have a good life… What’s the matter? And we don’t see it.
All those things are what society tells us we need and should aspire to. What do you really want? Is it to backpack all around the world? Would you want to be a professional surfer? Would you like to work with dogs? Would you like to be a painter? What would you want to be? You can be anything you set your mind to.
True, some of our dreams might not allow us to live as we are used to, but sometimes we don’t need all the things we have (and I speak here from the point of view of a consumer, someone who loves internet, and computers, and mobile phones, who loves music and cinema, and shoes! but I know I don’t need all these things to survive, I just like them, and am probably addicted to them to some extent), but if we really want something, we can fight for it. We should. The only excuses are those we tell ourselves.
When we were kids, our parents dictated who we were, what we did and how we needed to behave. Now we’re adults, and we’re the owners of our lives, we can direct our own course and choose our own path… What’s stopping us?
Next time you need to take a decision, think about the child inside of you, think about what that child wanted to be when growing up. Some of those dreams might be now late to try to achieve, but there are many others that can still be possible so, next time you’re faced with a choice, choose wisely.
for the child you were,
and for the adult you want to grow up to be.