“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It’s a question that we always hear from adults as we grow up. It’s the first thing that our parents ask us whenever dinner conversations steer towards the topic of school and probably the second or third question relatives ask us at family reunions—right after the question of whether we have already found ourselves boyfriends or girlfriends, of course.
Although ideally, we can answer this question any way that we want to, there will always be some kind of judgment or objection to our answers. Unless we answer with something that aligns with what the adults expect of us, with what is considered conventional, realistic, or acceptable in society, our dreams will always be met with some kind of criticism.
Adults will ask us about what we want to be when we grow up not necessarily with the intention to actually learn more about us through our personal ambitions but to gauge if we can fit into the cookie cutter molds—the safe zones—of society.
And this can be deeply discouraging, especially at the thought that the adults trying to let us down gently are also the same ones who teach us that our dreams, regardless of how big or small, can be achievable with passion and hard work. On the one hand, this can be their way of looking out for us and saving us from the feelings of defeat and disappointment if things don’t work out.
But at the same time, this could also be their indirect and unconscious confession that they are not as confident in us as we are of ourselves which is really what hurts all the more. Especially when you’re young with still lots of room to grow into your own person, doubt from the adults that you depend on will naturally scare you and make you doubt your own self. If they are not confident in me, then how can I be confident in myself and pursue my dreams?
In my case, when I first told my parents that I wanted to be a writer, I was immediately met with the more passive-aggressive kind of doubt. I told them that I wanted to be an author and playwright, to which they immediately responded by saying that it’s much “safer” or more “convenient” to be a journalist because it’s a more stable profession while still being aligned with my passion for writing. Creative writing, according to them, was something that I could do on the side once I’ve found my financial footing.
And for a while, they had me convinced that I should just settle for the more convenient option. Journalism was something that was as familiar to me as creative writing. After all, I began writing my stories after joining the school paper in elementary school. As they have pointed out, it was still writing, just a different kind, and it’s much more convenient for me to look for a job in the long run.
But I’ve always known, deep in my heart, that writing for the stage and for literature has always been where most of my own dreams and my greater destiny lie. Sure, journalism is a noble pursuit and one of my dreams at one point that I still want to pursue later on, but creative writing is really the bigger dream of mine where I know I will thrive as an individual and contribute to change in society.
So when it was time to apply for universities, I told myself that, ultimately, my own destiny is up to me, and applied for creative writing as my priority course, placing journalism either in second or third to acknowledge what my parents want for me and how the course still holds a place in my heart as another dream of mine. Once I was accepted into the program in all of the universities that I applied to, my parents became more accepting and trusting of my own decisions and actions, finally encouraging me to pursue the dreams and paths that I want rather than pushing for a seemingly safer alternative or equivalent.
Of course, there is still the reality that not everyone has the privilege to act the same way I did back then and I do acknowledge my own privilege in that time. However, the sentiment still stands that the doubt that others may have on us should ideally not be a hindrance to us in continuing to keep dreaming and chasing our goals—something that our resident Chairmom, Merlee Cruz-Jayme, also echoes and emphasizes in her book.
“Dreaming big should come naturally to everyone, regardless of gender, age, race, and background.” She writes in the first chapter, discussing the very subject of pursuing our own personal goals. “As we boldly declare our dreams, we should also prepare ourselves for the rough road ahead of us.”
Indeed, the path to our dreams and discovering our destinies is filled with all kinds of hardships, including these doubts that people may have of us and our dreams. These obstacles, however, are all part of the process of our own growth and development that we should not be afraid of, much less be shielded from by adults. While the adults around us should come to terms with the fact that moments of defeat, rejection, and disappointment are inevitable even in our youth, we should also learn how to not live in fear of the possibility of rejection but rather embrace the risk and keep on moving forward.
Big dreams will always come with equally grand obstacles, otherwise they are not as big or grand as we make them out to be. Even myself, in my journey towards my own big dreams of being a writer, still experience obstacles as I finish my bachelor’s degree. But I continue to bravely face all of these obstacles with all the determination to achieve my ambitions and pursue my own destiny, accepting it all as a part of the journey.
We should not let hardships and doubt discourage us and get into our heads. Rather, it should be our motivation to keep pushing on, to keep dreaming and chasing bigger things for ourselves. Ultimately, it’s all a leap of faith—personally, I would even liken it more to a complicated gymnastics routine or a triathlon—but if we never take the leap for ourselves and our dreams, then who will? In pursuing our destinies, we have nothing to lose but everything to gain.
Blog by Divina Aloisa Tolentino