I wanted to be an author and illustrator. As a budding reader, I was loving the Rainbow Magic series, and Go Girl, and Aussie Bites. I couldn't see myself writing a full book though, because that seemed like the most tedious, difficult thing in the world at the time. I did like drawing. I liked telling stories. So that's what I wanted to do. Making little picture books about fairies and families were my projects back in the day.
I remember there being a lot of kids who wanted to be teachers. Maybe it was because they were the people we looked up to. At the time, the only adults we spoke to were teachers and our parents, so understandably we wanted to be just like them. They were the only jobs we fully understood outside what we'd seen on TV.
I remember sitting in a park on one of our school trips - I was about 10 at this point. These two girls were sitting on the see saw and one of them asked the other what she wanted to be. She said she still wanted to be a teacher, the same job she'd announced four years ago during show and tell. Is it possible that she still wants to be a teacher now, six more years down the road? Is it possible for someone to have a calling like that?
I know I most definitely didn't have a calling. My next phase was the architect phase. My reasoning was that one, I enjoyed drawing; two, I liked the idea of designing buildings; and three, my second aunty who I looked up to was an architect. One time, while we were visiting her in Sydney, she taught us how to draw up designs. She taught us the symbols for doors and windows and walls, and how the measurements all fitted together. I think the measurements were what killed the dream for me in the end. As someone who finds geometry problems absolutely tedious and hair-pulling-frustrating, I couldn't imagine having to fit building parts together to the smallest millimetre. I know that in geometry, when fitting angles and lengths together, if one part doesn't fit, or one part gets changed, everything needs to get altered, and judging from my lack of patience in maths class, I can't imagine how I would be in the real world.
As I was transitioning into high school at 12 years old, I just wanted to be rich and famous. "A billionaire." That was my ambition in life. I wanted to be like the Hiltons, with my own successful hotel line, based all over the world. I would travel via private jet and all the people who had ever known me would look up and wonder why they ever treated me the way they did. My parents would be proud, my relatives would look up to me as the epitome of a good life. They would brag about me. I would go shopping in Paris.
DN and I had it all planned out. She would own a boutique next door, and she would manage one of my hotels. She was always the charismatic one who would be good with guests and people. We would take my private jet shopping. We would have the good life. Of course it was all a fantasy, but I thought there was a possibility it would legitimately come true.
I guess the idea of becoming rich never left me, because from then on my ambitions became related to any white collar job. It was between finance and medicine (which are incredibly different, and show just how little passion I was factoring into my lifestyle choice), leaning more towards finance. That's what my entire family does anyway, not that I know exactly what they do. They wear suits and live in all corners of the world - financial advisors, accountants, bankers, stock brokers, sitting on corporate boards, becoming a 'partner' seems to be everyone's goal in life?
My relatives' success in life is defined by how much money they earn. That's how we measure how smart they are. My mum says that in life you need to go to uni, then spend your youth (your 20s to 30s) working your butt off. Then, when you're 40, you'll have the life you want. You'll be able to do what you want. I was okay with this because these relatives got to travel the world. My mum worked in Hong Kong for six months, then Japan. They get transferred everywhere, and I figured that wearing business clothing with a big city hotel life was a life to have. I didn't think of the job. I thought of the lifestyle and it seemed appealing enough. Even if I spent all my time in that new city working a job I didn't enjoy.
"Take actuary," they said, "Actuary science is studying statistics. You'll be good at it." Statistics and probability is another field of maths that isn't exactly my favourite. Most of my conversations with my dad seem to involve grades and the future. He talks about universities and the best courses and he acts as if he knows everything.
In some ways he does have a dream job though. My dad is a scientist, because he's passionate about doing research to change or help the world. As a water scientist, his goal is to help ensure we'll have sustainable water in the future, and help inform decisions on water distribution in all sorts of developing countries. He travels to meetings and summits and conferences. The only issue with all research jobs is the funding they need to do so, and sometimes a job that is a passion can become so dysfunctionally systemised. Some of the reports they make him write up seem so pointless, and by the time that report is finished and unusable, he has to write another one.
Through our many conversations and considerations, I decided that going into finance had no purpose. My life would be spent making money out of money, and although I may have been able to get rich, that's not the goal in life. Although, my next option of becoming a doctor revolved around the idea of becoming rich too, just in a more fulfilling way.
So I scored myself a placement at the hospital for work experience, and as someone who has never had to stay overnight in a hospital, and doesn't really know anyone in the medical field, what I saw was an unfamiliar, interesting, shocking environment.
Nurses, physios, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, social workers, psychologists and doctors all work together on patients. It's crazy how I never considered how patients actually lived, and all the steps involved in making their lives normal again. I'd never really seen people that sick. I'd kind of bypassed their existence in my brain, and meeting them was like meeting any other person.
The patients were lovely people, and as I got to know them, I found myself more and more curious as to what they had, as to what was really going on inside their bodies. Dealing with people with strokes and infectious diseases, some were partially paralysed, weak, unable to speak and breathe on their own, seemed completely out of it, depressed, cynical - people in their most vulnerable state.
With practically all of them being well over 60, they had interesting stories to tell. Even the ones who weren't able to speak had their ways of communicating to me, nodding and shaking their heads. I talked to their families, their nurses, and when curiosity got the better of me I read their files. Every case was different. Every person was different. And I understand now that most of the incurable people are old and having their lives lengthened for as long as possible. I understand that when people say someone "died of old age" they don't just die one day, they have to die of something. And dying in bed, surrounded by family, painless under palliative care - what more could you ask for?
On the last day of my placement I managed to tag along with some doctors doing their rounds. There were the intern doctors, fresh out of uni and practically doctors already, deciding what they wanted to specialise in. My main concern with going into medicine was how many years of university I would have to endure - which is commonly 6-8 years. Seeing these interns, most at around 25 years old, I realised that it's worth it. They're not old at all. They have so much more life to live and they're already doctors making decisions and dealing with patients.
I could see myself in that position ten years from now - going from student to registrar to specialist doctor. At 25 I would already be what I want to be, and then it would be a matter of going through different levels of superiority that don't really mean anything other than a little more responsibility.
The wife of one of the stroke patients was 87 years old, and she was a doctor back in the day. She told me it was interesting, and I don't doubt it. With every person and every case being different, you'd never get bored. You're changing real people's lives, giving them use of their brains or other vital parts of their bodies. They can go home, speak again, walk again, interact with their families again - and all they needed was an expert who understands the human body to help them do so.
I think that now that I know what I want to be, I think I now have a purpose. I feel like I have an identity.