Do you remember what you wanted to be when you grow up when you were five years old? I remember I wanted to be either an astronaut or a teacher. As I grew older, like at ten years old, and started to know more about the practical world, these began to sound improbable. I did not grow up in the US and where I come from, there are no astronaut programs. What really flushed the dream away was seeing that simulation video where you were spun around in all directions, and seemed terrifying to my usually car-sickened young self. With being a teacher, I thought it was fun to make lesson plans but I was a nervous public speaker. I saw that it was a lot of hard yet emotionally fulfilling work, but not as satisfying in terms of the material success that society seemed to value. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, I knew I wanted to become those because each role had a great sense of purpose that made a big difference in people’s lives.
And then in high school, we had an entrepreneur class that I loved. One of our group projects was to come up with a business and actually testing it out on the school’s students. We came up with an idea of selling ice cream, with customers having a choice of a wide variety of toppings, kinda like the unhealthier version of Pinkberry.
It was a big hit – our group was the biggest seller. I remember some of the logistics not completely working out, like towards the end, the ice cream was all melty (We were in a tropical country and only had a cooler.), and yet the kids still paid for it. I remember the rush of adrenaline trying to figure out solutions to the melting issue (Borrowed ice from the cafeteria!) and being upfront with the customers about it, and then, the sense of achievement I felt giving people joy in getting what they wanted. It was then that I knew I wanted to own my business someday.
After college however, I sought to learn more about how businesses succeeded and worked for several companies, from start-ups to big corporations. I followed career paths, and then chased after other paths as my interests changed. Somehow at each path, when the newness wore off, when I have mastered the skill sets, received my promotions and got to the next, busier, level after maybe 3 years, I noticed I became terribly unhappy. I looked at my patterns and then it hit me: I was passing my days making someone else’s dreams come true because I did not have a clear picture of what mine was.
When I hit that realization, that’s when I started taking all sorts of interesting classes, joining several groups, and just figuring out what I really liked and what I wanted to do with my life. This is how I knew that my purpose is to give joy to people by giving them something in their surroundings that would make them smile, even for a second, no matter what they may be going through that day.
I still have an open mind that you don’t have to define yourself with just being or doing one thing for the rest of your life. You can be a designer, blogger, novelist, and volunteer worker all at once as long as you’re really happy in each role. I wish that in high school, there had been more internship opportunities, or spending more days at companies or jobs I was interested in. With the astronomical expense of college education, I think now more than ever, this is what our kids need. And one day, when I have my own children, if they decide to travel the world for 6 months after graduating high school, I would say go for it. Travel is, after all, the best teacher. The most important thing is to get to know yourself, trust and appreciate your awesomeness, and share this with others using the gifts that you were born with.
Are you in this crossroads right now? If so, get out there and just try everything! You might be surprised at the paths that open up before you.