As a child I grew up wanting to be many things. Never once a doctor, never once an engineer, never once a scientist, a lawyer or an accountant. It’s in nearly every Asian parent’s hope for their child to grow up being something academic and so brilliant, they say. I dashed my parent’s dream at an early age, so I’m guessing it didn’t hurt as much.
I grew up wanting to be a soccer player. That was my first dream. Me and a soccer ball, on a field, thousands cheering. I could hear my mum laughing at the 10-year-old me when I told her. It was nothing serious she knew. Just a phase children go through with a dream, which most times stays a dream. And she was right. The dream didn’t last. What I wanted didn’t last.
I turned to dancing. Spinning, tapping, rocking some moves. Yes, that seemed pretty awesome. For my parents, not so much. They neither supported nor shot down what I wanted. They’d let me dance, they never said no, but when it came to school events and footing extra costs such as dance shoes and clothing, the no eventually came. To them, dancing was a hobby, I’m allowed to love and do it. I’m just not allowed to over do it.
High school came and I took up dancing as an elective, but I wasn’t allowed to join student performance groups. I guess the idea of dancing was a love-hate relationship for my parents. Till date, dancing is a dream that I sometimes look back to. I still love it and if I had a second chance, there’s a high probability that I would one way or another persuade my parents to let me go for it.
My longest aspiration was to be a teacher. Teaching English, not math. Teaching children, not teenagers. It was an on-off thing. Sometimes I loved the idea and wanted it so badly, other times not so much. Reality of teaching set in when I first got my tutoring job in Singapore. There were days when being the boss of some little kid, felt great. Other times, having to scream at them and nearly losing half a life while doing it, was tiring.
I loved the kids I taught though. Some of them would tell me things they wouldn’t tell their parents. One 5-year-old boy told me he was really feeling tired and pressured from the overwhelming amount of tuition he had. He was having English and math three mornings a week with me (yes, I did teach math only because It was kindergarten level), but he also had Chinese and Hindu tuition, as well as swim school, tennis and rollerblading classes, all on top of school. I felt for the kid. Society was really demanding these days. Competitive at kindergarten. I did talk to his parents about it and they replied that they wanted the best for their child. The best, at the expense of a childhood not seeming like a childhood at all.
But as I did more tutoring, I started seeing a similar pattern. The stark reality was that today’s society was all about being at the top. Your grades determine if you’ll join the elite classes or eventually, an elite primary, high school, college, or university. Those that suffered were the children. Having little choice but to obey and accept their fate.
You see some shining and soaring through it easily. They were naturals at math, English, science. Then you see the ones that struggle to get to the top of the ladder. For them, even two little steps took a lot of effort and hard work. For them, seeing their report card was terrifying and upsetting, crushing their confidence and determination.
And that was the reason I knew I would never do it. I would not go back wanting to be a teacher. I lost faith in it. I didn’t want to see little faces full of stress and exhaustion or parents that question their child’s lacking. It wasn’t the children’s fault. It was society’s.
Now I don’t really have a dream or an ambition. I just want a decent job that I can learn to love, with a decent pay and simply to live a decent life. Nothing extravagant.