I can barely keep count of the number of ambitions I had when I was younger. Veterinarian, policewoman, clown, novelist, news broadcaster, housewife, physiotherapist, food-taster-cum-reviewer (I haven’t given this up yet), journalist – you name it, I’ve thought of it. Thinking back, each of them must have – at some point in my life – had an appeal so strong I woke up one day with an epiphany of sorts and decided, “This is it. This is my calling. I’m making a career out of this, and I’ll spend my life doing whatever it takes to be the best at it.” (My family doesn’t think I’ll make a good food reviewer though.)
And it’s unsurprising my decision on my ambition was never quite enduring, isn’t it? Much as the prospect of dedicating a lifetime to a vocation is enthralling, the possibility of spending copious amounts of time and effort doing something not right for me is daunting and distressing. I’ve spent hours sitting by my laptop – brow-knitted with a pen and notebook in hand, no less – furiously typing on Google: “How well does a xxx pay in Singapore?”, “Does being a xxx in Singapore suck?”, “I really enjoy doing xxx and I think xxx is the job for me, but will I be sick of xxx after a while? Should I keep it as a hobby?” It was as if my life depended on it and I was pursuing, with minimal success, the elusive Perfect Job.
And the truth of the matter is this: I was never going to find the Perfect Job. Desk-bound? Too sedentary. Out and about in the hot sun? You’ve got to be kidding me. Time-bound? Too stressful. OTOT? Issue me a challenge for god’s sake.
We’ve been acculturated to subscribe to the notion of ambition as strictly a job occupation. Doctors, lawyers, teachers… these are among the ambitions our teachers used to tell us about. But what if ambition as we know it is but a social construct created to fulfil functional purposes of a country, say boost productivity and perpetuate economic growth? What if there is more to ambition than monotonously punching in at 09:00 (and occasionally 08:59, in which case you do a swirl and Three Cheers for yourself) and out at 17:00 (they say you never know how long a minute is till you do a plank – these people clearly haven’t sat at the edge of their seat clutching their bag and staring at the clock at 16:59) every day?
What if we divorce the idea of ambition from work?
What if ambition is anything we wish to achieve?
What if ambition is what we’re meant to be/do instead of what we try (so hard) to be/do?
As opposed to asking yourself “What do I want to be when I grow up?”, take a minute to think, “What is the difference or change I wish to see in the world?”
Sometimes you learn most about yourself when you detach yourself from personal beliefs, expectations, and all that is so ingrained in you they unconsciously create your identity and shape your choices. Dismantle the perimeters that have been set for you. Walk beyond them and into previously unexplored terrains. And as you do so, feel. Feel, feel, feel. Feel where your ambition lies, then feed it.