Extra Virgin June

‘I’m Like a Fly in A Room Full of Mirrors’

Because these days studying Business Economics is often as likely to result in employment as a Lion Tamer, we asked a few South Africans in various careers whether their childhood aspirations bore any resemblance to what they are doing today. It will make you feel better to read this. It really will.

 

Dylan Culhane, 27, Cape Town

What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I loved soccer and drawing pictures but never conceived of 'professional footballer' or 'artist' as, well, jobs. I clearly remember sketching logos for made-up companies at the age of 8 or 9, so perhaps I had some notion of being a graphic designer (though I doubt the title/description existed in my head). When kris-kross made it big in '91, I really thought I had what it took to be a rapper (oh the shame!).

What did you become?
Strangely enough, the range of possible careers I’ve entertained has expanded as I’ve grown older (the inverse is supposed to happen, right?). At high school I entertained a path in commerce for about 5 minutes, only because everybody at my elitist all-boys school in Jo’burg had cloned imaginations.

Advertising seemed imminent at one stage, until I realised it was basically a desk-job like any other. Since then I’ve entertained movie director, molecular biologist, professor, economist, restaurateur and farmer. Today I am a writer/photographer/film-maker/journalist, which to some people translates as '27-year old drifter'.

What went right/wrong?
I remember our Std. 5 teacher taking us aside individually after an aptitude test we had to write and discussing the results with us. I can recall his exact words: 'the world is your oyster'. I was glad and rather proud of myself at the time, but in hindsight these words of inspiration f****d everything up.

I’m all for encouraging the youth to dream, but give them some direction for goodness sake. 16 years later and I still want to be everything; still searching for the oyster of destiny. I wish Mr. Linington had told me to be a banker or a lawyer or a doctor or a plumber. I was 11. I would have taken his advice as a kind of induced vocation. Perhaps that would have narrowed my options a little and afforded me the luxury of a monthly pay-check and a pension plan. Instead I remain trapped by endless possibilities, like a fly in a room full of mirrors.

 

Julie Atmore, 21, Cape Town

What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I really wanted to be a singer and an actor for a very long time. Then I wanted to be a psychologist

What did you become?
I am currently studying to be a journalist – I’m in my final year. I studied singing up until Matric and did surprisingly well. However, I wasn't sure if I was good enough to go all the way. I've always loved writing, so I decided to try journalism hope I made the right choice!

Nick Groll, 25, London

What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I never had any solid idea or plan. Even at school, I did subjects that would allow me to keep my options open.

What did you become?
A fed-up computer programmer that has since left his job.

What went right/wrong?
I'm not sure how to answer this. I will however tell you that I was thinking of looking into this as part of studying further in psychology, I think it's interesting what jobs are offered to us at school-leaving stage or even mentioned in guidance class at school.

 

Greg Jemmett, 28, Cape Town

What did you want to be when you were a kid?
I remember being very creative and driven as a child, and didn't want to be just one thing. I had it in my mind to be some kind of polymath, like some kind of comic book uber-Renaissance man, but weirdly remain a child at the same time. Deep down though, I think being a writer was at the source of it. It fitted my day-dreaming spells, my love of fantasy stories, my love of the ability to express myself, my desire to control fate and most of all peculiar fits of creativity, that when not fulfilled wracked me with aching spells of frustration and a sense of self-loathing. I was quite self-involved.

What did you become?
I became a doctor after many years of protracted adolescence and dependence in a hard system. I carried on the kind of work I was obliged to do as a junior doctor for a further two years, and then decided to opt for research as a way to have more time for other things, and better quality of life.

What went right/wrong?
Well, I was always a serious child, despite being a dreamer, and had a deep sense of morality and religious commitment. I felt that living a life of service and commitment to the good of others was probably the best thing to do. The creativity bumbled along in the background. I can't actually recall when I made the decision to be a doctor, but it always seemed to be the default option. The proper option. Somehow programmed into my formative mind by my formative conscience and sense of duty. As idealism was gradually worn away by realism and pragmatism, I've turned into a bit of a dreamer again.

My medical experience has given me opportunities to see life very differently, as well as for social and intellectual improvement. What I regret most, however, was hitching myself to a system before I knew what was in store, and not allowing my moody, self-involved, non-clinical self to be more free to get involved in the decisions and doubts. Now that I have the space and opportunity to review the system again, I have feelings of regret and also of fear. Should I stay, or should I go?

 

 

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