"Why can’t I try on different lives, like dresses, to see which fits best and is more becoming?" Sylvia Plath
Ontology of the Question
If questions could be ranked for perseverance of haunting, the one above definitely steals the top spot. Logic suggests that jaw-dropping beauties have been asked this question more times than they have been asked for dates. If you are wondering why logic and not data, come on guys do you really think I know enough (read it any) jaw dropping beauties to ensure sufficient statistical randomness? If you are wondering how logic suggests it you must be really non- imaginative. I could lay down the entire calculations for you but let us just have an overview and move past it. Most parents ask this every year till 25 (If it continues beyond this point, either you didn't leave your parents in time or your parents did not leave you alone with time), believing they are no exceptions they already had enough of this question. Plus, most times, people who are dating her or even who are hoping to date her find it to be a very convenient question to ask (Sorry guys, but are you really interested in her future prospect or your future prospects?)
The question has certain diabolical properties which should be pointed out before moving any further. The question might take many forms , Where do you see yourself, What are your future plans, What do you want to do in your life?. It does not matter what form they take , they are always dreadful and paralyzing. Once lodged, the question can throw your soul into a state of hopelessness and desperation. And the worst part it, it never leads a trace of the ordeal it incurs, thus , unless directed at us, we all believe the question to be utterly simple and innocuous. The enquirer does not even feel a sense of guilt and remorse while quite conveniently shredding the self esteem of the next person. ( If you really want to make a fool out of someone, ask him this in front of a gathering and see how he falls into a fit of nonsensical blabbering).
Don't you have your own life to think about?
People start asking you the questions as an idea of fun when you are just a kid. They would listen to how you would be superman when you grow up and get their gigs out of it. ("So cute he is. Still believes Superman to be real). And then may be a few years and science lessons ahead, you would get into realm of reality, " I would like to be the President". " Good, Kyle" your teacher would say to you while thinking this all the time : "And I would like to hump Megan Fox. But then we both know none of this is happening". And then you would correct your course a few years down the line: "I would like to be a Scientist" and your parents would go through a somewhat similar thought process "Scientist = Science = PCM in school = IIT = Engineering, Therefore Scientist = Engineer" and respond "Attaboy, go ahead and joining that Coaching Centre down the street" .
And then once you are in IIT may be most people will stop pestering you and it is you who will ask: "What am I to do in my life? " You clearly can't relate to the Paper Technology course you took and you are not sure if you are built for building buildings. A lot of things that you can connect to now are things you dropped back in high school believing them to be trash education. You just couldn't find what you want to be and so you settled into a job that you could find. And you had become so ept at cutting your dreams short that you are now happy to be a super employee rather than superman,
No one discredits your dreams, they just educate you.
There are two things that are very important acknowledge and recognize. First, as you grow old, the number people who ask us this question keeps getting smaller as we grow and later it is just you who is asking yourself this question. Everyone else has already assumed that this is all you can be and now no one is interested in your future. And someday you will make peace with it as well and you will accept that you cannot be anything different. Second, no one really objects to dreams as long as you can keep downsizing them with time. "Ok, he is five now and he wants to be superman, Let us make sure he gets to president when he is 10." So, if you look back, it feels like this question is more like feedback gathering test to ensure social adherence and conformity . So if you think you dreamed big as a child but your dreams were never questioned, think again, probably you just dreamed according to you age and the society just had to realistify you with time. BTW, I don't feel being superman is impossible but you never hear someone telling a kid " If you wish to be superman you should start helping others, and you should develop an app to track people who need your assistance, don't forget to work on a sustainable solution for jet packs and hey kiddo, do workout. "
You are You ! And that is all
Where do you go from wherever you are is a choice you have to make? But if it helps, What you want to be is not a very good questions to be asked. "How you want to live?" is a better one. While the first question limits you, the second one gives you possibilities. Difference is between choosing to be a Soldier or "to serve a country". The difference is subtle but pronounced. Once you have chosen to be a soldier you are limited by all the obligations of a soldier but in the other case there are so much you can do, all you have to ensure is that your country is benefited by your work (Though, I chose this example, I wish to make it clear that I am against patriotism and against the idea of nations ). Anyhow, what I wish to elucidate is that your life is not to be dictated by an existing role or a title. It limits you as there are just so many title; definitely not enough to capture the uniqueness of every human being. You don't have to be a pilot to fly a plane, you can just be rich and buy one. You don't have to be a president to be a leader, you can just be Gandhi or Martin Luther King. You don't have to be a husband to love a woman or a father to raise a kid. There are just endless permutations in which a life can be led and believe it is your choice that dictates what you are right now,
I dream to live and Live to Dream
If you ask me, I would like to be an experientialist. I don't want to have a title in the end, I just have a bunch of things I would like to do: I chose to learn indiscriminately without concern, prejudice or judgement only driven by curiosity. I would like to discover and observe and be engrossed and then expertise. I would like to create something new that can solve an existing problem and destroy something obsolete that is creating new problems. I would like to write a story and someday probably be in someone else's story. I would like to have authentic food at their places of origin and cook some original recipes for special friends. I would like to be in company of people where I can have deeply insightful conversations (at least listen to them) without the fear of being judged. And I don't care if a profile that can fit it all doesn't exist. To venture is human, or may be in this world, Superhuman.
It does not matter what the destination is. It is your journey that you must enjoy. If destination is good that's an added bonus but if you can enjoy the trip, you probably don't even need a destination.