It’s a question you’ll get asked more then a dozen times in your younger years.
From the moment you are able to speak to the day you leave your high school, GCSE’s in hand and confusion enveloping your innocent, vulnerable face, people want to know what it is you want to do for the rest of your entire life.
Some of you, when first faced with this daunting question, might have answered with the obvious careers any child would have wanted at that age. ‘I want to be a vet when I grow up’, ‘I’d love to be a singer’ or ‘I really want to be a astronaut’.
Before long though, these dreams would become nothing more then distant memories when the realisation dawned upon your little brains that such careers where not within your grasp. Or so you were made to believe by society and the education system that was forced upon you before you had even learnt to walk never mind run.
John Lennon himself was once asked the same question. However, his answer was one in which many of us wish me had the courage to give, for when Lennon was asked by his school what he wanted to be when he grew up, he wrote down that he wanted to ‘be happy’.
And typical of society, that school told a young Lennon that he obviously had not understood the assignment they had given him. And he answered, with wisdom beyond his years, that they didn’t understand life.
I always wondered why this quote wasn’t more widely used. Why schools didn’t have these very words inscribed to their walls and why work places don’t have this quote printed to display on employees desks. And then I realised. These words weren’t widely used because of these unsaid ‘rules’ and ‘judgements’ we own as people, as human beings and as a society. When adults ask these questions of young people, they expect an articulate, straightforward answer. They expect this young person to answer them with the sort of career/aspiration we expect of in everyday life. A doctor, a teacher, a lawyer or a pilot, even though they have spent the majority of their life’s in an establishment learning all these different topics and subjects, finding out more about themselves as they grow and in turn changing their minds about almost everything with each school year that passes . And forbid that they should answer them with an unrealistic expectation of their future endeavour or even that they don’t truly know.
‘Darling, being a singer isn’t really a career though is it?’
‘Oh son, you can’t actually be an astronaut though can you?’
‘You must want to be something!’
And they encourage these children to choose something more to their liking, their standards and understanding of the world and how it works.
‘Maybe you’d like to be an accountant?’
‘You could always become a pharmacist, you love science in school!’
And so the ritual goes. Another hoard of young souls destined to spend their life’s in office jobs they despise or retail work where they feel they are never good enough, just to please other people (no offence to the people who work in these sectors out of choice). Those wild and wonderful dreams trapped away under some mental dictatorship, never to be revealed or played out in reality. And all this to meet other people’s expectations of what they should and shouldn’t be doing with their life’s.
Could you imagine it now, if John Lennon had taken the words of that school literally. If he had been influenced by their judgments and misinterpretation of what life is really all about? Well, we wouldn’t have The Beatles, that’s for sure. Therefore we wouldn’t have been gifted with the wise words of the singer himself.
The majority of us are probably unhappy. We hide it behind fake smiles. We attend our 9 to 5 jobs we hate or courses we don’t really feel passion for to earn money to buy stuff we don’t really want so we can please all those judging people who asked us that very question all that time ago. And yet we like to believe we have our own free will. That we have a choice in everything we do.
But it’s not just our jobs. Oh no, we can also expect to be judged upon our personal relationships as well. In our society, if you aren’t married and pregnant by the time you’re 35 you are unhappy. You live a lonely life without much purpose or stability.
So the logical answer is to run into a relationship with someone we don’t really want to be with, but we feel we need to be with. We have these empty relationships with no real matter or validity, because thats what people expect from us. We can’t be middle aged adventurers who just maybe were having such fun we forgot to think about settling down or finding someone to spend our pension years with. We can’t just be a single older woman who’s pursuing her greatest dreams and just hasn’t found the right person yet or a man who lives alone and has no intention of meeting someone any time soon yet is just happy writing novels all day. Nope, that’s not even a plausible example in which to live ones life.
Funny that. The most unhappiest people I’ve met in life are those that had these expectations of relationships forced upon them. The young couple who were encouraged to commit to each other as soon as possible. And when they realised they were not right for one another believed that they had no other option but to stand by the relationship like a child might keep a disheveled toy that serves no joy for the sake of keeping the parents that brought it content. And years later they might finally pluck up the courage to walk away, by that time regretting wasted years they could have spent pursuing their own happiness, finding someone who might actually have accepted and loved them for who they truly were.
Pursuing happiness. Maybe that should be on the school curriculum. It’s something we never really bother to take a look at in everyday life. For some reason other things hold more importance and we continue on this path that doesn’t actually have our best intentions, because that’s what they expect. Maybe even we expect from our own lifes.
So next time someone asks me what I want to be I’m going to tell them, Happy. Because if I’m not part of that one human emotion that the whole world seems to be searching for when it’s right under their noses, I’ll know that I’m obviously not doing things right.