When I was very young I wanted to grow up to be a fire engine. A few years later, noting with displeasure that my shoulders were not hardening and turning red and my limbs not mutating into wheels, I realised that this was probably not going to happen. So I decided to be a journalist. Since then, it’s all gone more or less according to the script.
In fact, I’m one of the only people I know who is working in the field for which my studies prepared me. Unlikely as it may seem, it is more common to dream of being an astronaut, study Zoology (specialising in Peruvian arachnids) and end up working as a dough expert at a bakery while freelancing as a Hebrew/English textbook translator. In short – it doesn’t often go according to plan.
There are strong reasons why we don’t become what we dream of being as youths. It’s hard to become an astronaut or the President, harder still to become David Beckham; in some cases – mine, for example – our aspirations are biologically impossible. But when you’re saying things like “I want to be a circus elephant”, you’re usually quite young, so such moments should hardly be considered significant indicators of aptitude.
I had an aptitude test once. It was conducted in a stuffy, vanilla room on a hot afternoon in Stellenbosch and I wanted to know what to do with my life just as much as my mom, who had signed me up after three moths of hearing me say things like “Maybe I should be a postman” and “Do hikers get paid?”. After three hours the psychologist slid a piece of paper across the table. At the top of the list was “jewellery designer”. We felt robbed.
Yet the confusion continues after college, when people often study one thing and go on to do something utterly different. It is almost as though selecting a degree can be a death knell to one’s chances of ever actually going on to work in a related field. If you want your child to be a banker; encourage them to study locusts.
All of which is why we asked a handful of South Africans whether what they’re doing today is at all related to that which they thought it would be when they were young. Take heart; even doctors wonder if they’re doing the right thing. We look at the best of the winter’s movie releases and wonder whether the past few weeks of stability might drag us away from a recession.
But June and Youth in South Africa is a political cocktail and this month we bring you the second part of our Great Speeches feature, this time focusing on the speeches that changed the country forever.