When I was little, I really liked my doctor.
She’d been my physician since I was born. She’d always greet me with a warm smile, seen me in every (unflattering) state of sickness, and made sure I always went home with a lollipop that was definitely too sweet.
So, up until age 13 or so, if anyone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d proudly and firmly say “pediatrician.”
Never mind the fact that I didn’t care for babies or kids, and hated the fact that I’d have to give said babies and kids lollipops after they had just scream their lungs out because of a flu shot.
It didn’t matter, because when I told my dad of my dream, the look of pride he sent my way probably made me dislike babies a little less. Even as a broody middle schooler.
Well, that fatherly approval can only take you so far, and I eventually realized that med school was not for me because one, math has always been the bane of my existence, and two, no number of lollipop memories and their fond sentiment would make me sit through that many years of numbers and equations.
After hanging up the doctor dream, I took up a new yet brief fascination with law school that only sprouted because of how often I was called out for my argumentative and confrontational temperament. According to my family, that meant I was cut out to be a lawyer.
Ever impressionable and people pleasing, I did think I could make this my career. Did I particularly want to become a lawyer? No. But, did I aspire to be one because I thought the sense of fulfillment would eventually come? Yes.
I always thought that the feeling of success in life would find me first, then contentment would inevitably come after. I don’t think that I ever possessed a dream that was my own. I merely piggybacked off the desires and wishes others had for me.
It’s almost funny how we can confuse our own wants with the wants of others because of how much we care for their opinion and approval.
When we’re kids that are still developing our personalities and picking up the parts of ourselves that we know today, we will fall in and out of love with the world around us. We’ll start hobbies, gain interests, develop our own ideas, and we might drop all of them as quickly as we picked them up.
We’re fickle. So incredibly fickle. But that fickleness is necessary.
At that age, we need to be indecisive. And explorative. And confused and free to be those things. We need people to tell us that it’s okay to be those things.
See, oftentimes, we are presented with the notion that we have to always “know”. We must know what we want, what we don’t want, and a number of other things that a 13-year-old really shouldn’t have to decide in the middle of puberty. (And what a super yikes time that was).
And even for young adults my age, we’re still often swayed by voices that don’t belong to us. By people who, though they probably mean well, have no business in telling us what we should be passionate about.
It’s unfortunate that so many of us feel that we are running out of time, when in reality, no such time limit exists. Following the whims of others might grant us temporary satisfaction or gratification, but it will not fulfill us in the long run. Self-fulfillment is not an outward experience, but rather something that can only be established internally and individually.
It’s really not enough to say “follow your dreams” or “just be yourself”, because those pieces of advice are vague and really help no one; let’s be honest here.
We really can’t tell people how to find passions or fall in love with them, but we can support them when they do.
Your passions, whenever they find you, will hopefully last longer than a doctor’s office lollipop ever will.