What do you want to be when you grow up?

Ángel Marroquín

The mystery of a life can only be deciphered by who lives it. We come and go; we move around; we take and discard decisions only to return again and again to the same places, the same lights and darkness, the same landscapes and scents. And so often, we ignore the limits of our invisible personal prison.

Suddenly we realise that we are aware of something important. That is when things change: when the things around us change us. Then, again and again, we fall and must start walking again. Something trivial, a simple fact, insignificant in appearance, brings us back to the amazement of being alive and makes us aware of what we need or what we no longer need.

Something like this happened to a friend. In conversation, he told me: “My daughter is at that age when people begin to ask her, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. I don’t care what she says, he told me, but I feel like a hypocrite trying to tell her: “Follow your dreams,” “Do what makes you happy,” because I haven’t done it myself. “

As soon as he finished the last sentence, I could perceive that something was changing in him. His secret had been revealed; his personal nightmare had been told. Yet, somehow telling it had allowed him to get rid of something.

As I listened to him, I thought about how all of us are carried away by the inertia of routines, monthly deadlines and involuntary forgetfulness. Without awareness, day by day, we find ourselves involved in a strange internal negotiation in which we are increasingly asked  – by ourselves – to act as the world wants and less as we naturally feel inclined to act and decide. Some call it “maturity” or “adulthood” to the process of adaptation to this annihilating routine.

The problem is that we are not negotiating with stones or some inert object. No. We are dealing with our lives, with the precious and short time that we have to develop that “wild and strange” singularity that each of us possesses, unique and unrepeatable and, in some form, sacred.

We have been led to believe that following our dreams should rhyme with success, social recognition, quality or reputation. But the more we seek these things, the more we imprison ourselves at a price we must later pay. For example, if we are not invited to an important work meeting, we feel rejected or diminished in our self-esteem. Still, we do not consider that to be in that meeting we must pay a high price: greater involvement in the subject, more hours spent preparing ourselves, drinking more cups of coffee talking about things we don’t care about, time spent on adulating our bosses, etc.

On the contrary, success can mean gaining the freedom to detach ourselves from those obligations that separate us from who we are, from our laborious, never-ending and challenging task of governing ourselves. Following our dreams perhaps means changing our life, winning rather than losing ourselves in the endless negotiation between ourselves and the world.

Anyway, the time will come for each of us when we find ourselves in my friend’s situation: wanting to tell a young person “follow your dreams”, “do what makes you happy”, and contrast our own life with the advice we are giving.

Good luck!

Photo: Sebastian Silva

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