Note: This was originally written for Gulf News: http://gulfnews.com/opinions/offthecuff/of-aims-and-aspirations-1.1043054
Of aims and aspirations
A relaxing cloud of daydreams surrounded me and my head was nestled in a cozy nook between my arms. “Sit up straight!” a sharp voice penetrated my comfortable reverie. “Err, what?” I said drowsily as I opened my eyes and looked up. I straightened my pleated brown uniform and ran a hand through my braided hair and tucked a stray strand behind my ear.
“So, would you like to tell us why sleep overcame you, young lady?” said the teacher.
I blushed profusely as I heard snickers around the class. I usually liked sitting alone in the last row; it was a convenient place if you wanted to take things a little easy and retreat in your shell. Not today though, when the teacher had given me such a wake-up call.
“Sorry Sir,” I said with a sheepish grin, revealing unsightly metal braces that inhabited my mouth when I was 16. Why, oh why could I not have come up with a witty response? From the corner of my eye, I could see the others were enjoying this. I certainly wasn’t.
“Well, in the future, would you kindly pay attention?” I nodded and tried to catch up with the lesson, except that this wasn’t one. Everyone in the class was asked what their aims were, what career path they would choose and what profession they were most likely to adopt. I too began contemplating it. What would I be? A teacher? No, because I wouldn’t want to make people’s lives miserable, I thought with a pointed look at the gentleman pacing the room. A doctor? Would I be able to give people shots? No, that was out of the question. Accounts? Would someone please get me a sick-bag? An engineer? Too much maths. In this way I cancelled out all the options that appeared suitable. And before I could make up mind, it was my turn to tell the class my preferred profession.
Honesty is usually a good thing, but too much of it can get you in trouble. I stood up nervously and took a deep breath and said: “I don’t think I’d really be good at anything.” The class erupted into laughter. In the midst of bright, upcoming genetic biologists, scientists, lawyers, pilots, doctors, chartered accountants, teachers and cricketers, here was someone who wouldn’t fit in anywhere.
“Really?” An evil smile (or so it felt at that time) spread slowly across the teacher’s lips and I thought to myself, “Here we go again.”
“Why?” he asked.
Desperately, I wondered: “Please God, why couldn’t I have said something intelligent and exciting like astronaut and buzzed back off into dream world?”
With about 25 pairs of expectant, amused eyes looking up at me, I prayed for the bell to ring. Nothing, not a sound emanated from the speakers. I cleared my throat and began to talk.
“Well, I don’t know. Sometimes I think about becoming a doctor, but I know there’s no way I could give people shots, or dissect human bodies. I’d make a horrible pilot or astronaut and I’m not sure if there’s anything I like except writing. But there’s one thing that I’m certain about,” I spoke confidently now, after all I had nothing left to lose.
“I know I’ll be a good person. When I grow up, I want to touch hearts and I want to change lives.” I said with a flush.
Now where on earth had that come from? The giggles changed into silence and the teacher looked taken aback. I didn’t blame him — I was surprised myself.
He nodded and I sat down, wiping my sweaty palms on my brown uniform.
About a decade later, I’m starting to realise what a lofty aim it was and that it was easier said than done. The struggle to achieve it continues.