Home >opinion >online-views >Cubiclenama | Almost a palaeontologist

All those years ago—but not too many, ladies—when I was in the first standard, our class teacher once gave us a rare, unmarked assignment. I say rare because I spent my first standard, and many subsequent standards, at the St. Joseph’s High School in Abu Dhabi. It is a very good school, of course, with posh uniforms, expensive fire extinguishers and the capacity to invite PT Usha for sports day.

But back in the day it also used to be one of those academic institutions where nothing was left to chance or subject to spontaneity. Especially the minds of children. It was, and probably still is, the kind of nun-run convent-ish outfit where they divided you into “houses" and your “house"—Jasmine House, Vivekananda House, Proton House, et cetera—got a de-merit if you “stand-at-ease-d" when you were supposed to “eyes-right".

So this fun, un-nun-like assignment was as follows. Our class teacher asked us, one afternoon, to write short, free-form essays on what we wanted to become when we grew up. And why? Just for the heck of it. No marks, scores, merits or demerits were involved.

A few days later my class teacher called up my parents. She wanted to discuss my submission. At the tender age of 7, your favourite columnist had written a brief essay stating that when he grew up he wanted to become—true story—a palaeontologist.

No. I wasn’t a child prodigy and I have the mark sheets to prove it. I don’t recall at all where I came across the idea of palaeontology and how it became an aspiration. Perhaps I had seen a dinosaur documentary the day before.

But over the years I did nurture this dream and various derivations of this dream—archaeologist, historian, forensic metallurgist—none of which eventually ended in fruition. Obviously. Not that I abandoned them. They just… somehow faded away. All gradually transplanted with enforced “dreams" of becoming an engineer and then an MBA. Both of which, to be fair, I took on enthusiastically.

Earlier this week I asked Twitter folk if any of them had achieved their childhood goals of becoming something or someone when they grew up.

The responses, some of which you can see on the new Cubiclenama subreddit at www.reddit.com/r/cubiclenama, broadly fell into four categories.

The first category comprised those who more or less achieved their dreams. These mostly involved people who worked in media, filmmaking, journalism, etc. They mostly sounded happy. Glory be.

The second and largest category comprised people who had seen their dream careers fall by the wayside. Some had tried and failed. Others, like me, never really actively pursued their dreams. They simply fell in with the “flow", becoming engineers, auditors and so on. They seem saddened by this. But now it was too late to do anything about it.

The next two categories were the most interesting. Number three comprised of people who also hadn’t really achieved their dreams. But instead of giving up on them completely, they’d found ways of staying in touch with these dreams somehow. So the budding scientist was now a journalist covering the science beat, and the budding travel writer became a consultant who travels on work frequently.

The final category was the smallest. These were people who had dreams, didn’t realize them, but don’t care a smidgeon. Because they believe things like career dreams are overrated and unrealistic. They believe that there is great merit in conventional jobs that pay you well, satisfy all your basic needs, and often afford you other luxuries. So what if your job was boring or conventional? How does that matter if you could leverage them to achieve many other goals and aspirations?

Category three, for me, is a commendable compromise to make. And I think a lot more people can and should get back in touch with their dreams. For some, this could be quite easy. Wanted to be a footballer? Join a local amateur club and snap a cruciate ligament or two. Always dreamt of being a soldier? Why not start a blog on Indian soldiers in WW1? Chef whites beyond reach? Surely there is a cooking online course out there? Budding historian still bubbling within? Why not pitch a history column to one of your editors? (You know who you are.)

In this day and age, equipped with the Internet, there is simply no excuse to not rediscover some of those lost aspirations.

Category four, I admit, seems overly cynical at first glance. But after due rumination, I am beginning to see the merit here. Why should “dreams" only be about jobs or careers? Why can’t they be about the home you live in, the holidays you go on or the comfort you earn for your family?

Why is “becoming an artist" more virtuous than, say, “buying my parents a flat in Pune"? When you think about it… it really isn’t.

So if you can’t achieve your dreams, or stay in touch with them… why not simply find new ones? A fantastic approach if you ask me.

So what were your old career dreams? And what are your current ones? Tell us all. Leave nothing out.

Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at pleasures and perils of corporate life.

Your comments are welcome at cubiclenama@livemint.com.

To read Sidin Vadukut’s previous columns, go to www.livemint.com/cubiclenama

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