“What do you want to do?” this was the question I was asked most frequently throughout High School. It is an important question because, let’s face it, we need to know what we want in order to step ahead in life, right? Years flew by, and I started my University degree in biotechnology. The same question was still asked, “What do you want to do?” and my answer remained the same “I don’t know”. I was uncomfortable with my answer until the day I paid a visit to my uncle’s office.
I sit on the hard black leather chair, with my uncle in front of me behind his broad desk. With his fingers typing away hurriedly, and his strained eyes staring into the computer screen, he asked me the dreaded question “what do you want to do?” I pause and hesitate for an answer. I stare into space and think hard to find an answer in my mind. I start to stutter and my uncertainty grabs his attention. He turns his face towards mine and with raised eyebrows he asks, “You don’t know?” He looks back at his computer screen and begins to tap away at the keyboard again, “you need to know so that you can work hard and become successful at a young age, like me”. I nod politely but ponder to myself, “like you?” I look around his office and almost snicker. I see the growing piles of papers on his desk, the constantly ringing phones screaming to be answered, the bookshelves over filling with old files and a kitchen in the far corner that rarely gets used. Nothing in this mundane room inspired me to become “successful”.
This office room, although very spacious and modernly decorated, felt empty and jaded. On the corner of his desk there was a framed photo of his family, a wife and a five year old daughter, who he probably could not find enough time to spend with. My uncle keeps the conversation going although I could tell he had a thousand more urgent things running through his mind. If this is success, I’d rather be happy and unsuccessful than confined in such rigidity that serves me no pleasure.
Amidst the dull office room, the TV to the far left caught my attention; a group of teenagers were adventuring around the world. They were hiking, swimming, travelling to foreign countries and more. I could not take my eyes of the screen, the glimpse of green and blue that I could see through the box captivated me. I’d rather be there, out there, than here. I look at my uncle, his tired face and stiff posture, and look back at the TV. I realize the teenagers in the documentary were all from different backgrounds, yet they were all in a journey of exploring the world around them. A deep sigh escapes my lips, as I imagine a life where my mind, body and soul are rejuvenated together.
That documentary was a striking contrast to my uncle’s office life. Even if the TV was angled away and the volume was mute, I was still drawn to what it was projecting; a life worth living. It might not earn me money, or impress my family or relatives, or make me “successful”, but I was okay with that because it will make me happy. Then it started to make sense to me, it’s the journey that is important and not the destination. Even if the journey is a winded path, as long as I learn to enjoy it, I will be successful in my own terms.
Time went on and I started to enjoy my journey, and explore the things around me. I took an English minor alongside my biotechnology major, even if people gave me puzzled looks. I started piano classes, began to learn photography and improved my swimming skills, even if people told me it’s a waste of time. I gained a green-blue belt in taekwondo, tried some gardening and experienced an internship at an advertising agency and more, whether others approved or disapproved of it. I am learning that it’s perfectly acceptable to not know what your big dream is, or to have your future all figured out. It’s not about what do I want to do, but rather who do I want to be, and I can find the answer at my own pace, in my own journey.