From a young age, I have had to answer the million-dollar question that adults, for some reason, find amusing to ask children: what they want to be or do when they grow up. Although the question is open and adults usually nod in approval at most responses, some answers elicit more nods than others.
For instance, I saw the look of satisfaction on my father’s face the first time he asked my brothers and me what we wanted to be when we grew up. “A doctor!” I exclaimed. My father didn’t need to say much; it was apparent he was pleased. He was also pleased when my eldest brother said he wanted to be a professional football player. However, the story took a different turn when one of my dad’s older friends asked us the same question.
“I hope to be a professional football player!” My brother beamed. It was obvious the man was unimpressed. He justified his skepticism by explaining to our young, naive minds that football is a low-paying, ‘uncertain’ profession based on mere luck and that one streak of mischance is enough for your whole career to come tumbling down. Although he might not have realized it at the moment, this revelation was a harsh blow to my brother’s football fantasy because the next time the career question came up, he spoke last and didn’t sound too excited.
I am sure my brother’s wasn’t the only dream crushed by somebody else’s great expectations. As children, we are more dreamy, ambitious and hopeful. We believe we can become presidents, lawyers, musicians; the list is endless. However, as we grow up, we are faced with the ugly reality that more dreams are unrealized than are realized. Sadly enough, most of us quickly decide ours fall under the former category — doomed to amount to nothing more than what they already are: just dreams.
Growing up, my family moved a lot, so we hardly spent half a year in the same house, or neighborhood for that matter. Consequently, I have lived in many different communities, some affluent, others below impoverished. This has given me a chance to meet and interact with people from different walks of life. I have conversed with children from low-income families whose utmost wish was to go a week without worrying about where their next meal would come from. I have met children from well-to-do families whose biggest concern was the possibility of missing a new season of Money Heist because they would be at boarding school by the time it got released.
These two groups’ ambitions differ. Whereas becoming a multimillionaire could have been too big a dream for the former group whose daily grind was dedicated to affording the bare minimum, it would have been realistically attainable for the latter, whose ambitions surpassed the basic necessities of life.
Although we are encouraged to be ambitious and dream big as children and young adults, upon their mention, some dreams are swiftly deemed ‘unrealistic’ or ‘overly desirous.’ I have always wondered whether there is such a thing as too much ambition or a thin line past which a goal shifts from impressive to wildly ambitious or if a person’s socioeconomic status in some cases may render their dream invalid or unachievable.
I hold a belief that every dream deserves a chance rather than an abrupt death sentence so long as its beholder is set on achieving it. Accordingly, ambition is a good thing because it is the motivation to excel in life by meeting and exceeding expectations. Some may argue that humans should learn to be content with what they have, to which I agree, but there is a huge difference between contentment and complacency.
Whereas some people dream of mansions amidst big cities and expensive cars, others fancy tiny log houses in the middle of nowhere. Both dreams are valid as were my brother’s and mine. Before sucking life out of a goal or deeming it unrealistic, it would be best to recognize that life is about constant evolution and self-improvement. Ambition encourages both.
Divine Mbabazi is a junior integrated science major. Reach her at email@example.com.