Some people know exactly what they want to do in life. When they’re kids and busybody uncles and aunts ask “Beta, what do you want to be when you grow up?”, instead of saying “None of your business, bitch”, they solemnly say “Doctor” or “Zookeeper” or in my brother’s case “Mechanic”. (“You mean ‘engineer’?” they’d ask him hopefully and he’d just shake his head and say, “No, mechanic.” Very sorted, my brother.)
I am not one of those people.
When I was a kid and random strangers asked me what I wanted to be, I would’ve said “Not picked on” or “Someone without spectacles” or even “Left alone for now, thank you very much.” Of course, I never actually said any of those things. I just stared at them dumbly till they felt uncomfortable and went away. At least that’s the only explanation I have for not remembering any childhood ambitions as of now.
My dad wanted me to be a singer. I’m guessing he didn’t want me wear a schoolgirl skirt, furry pink ribbons and pout at the camera crooning “Oops I dididagain”. No, he shoved a tanpura under my arm and told me to learn classical singing or else. I went at it till my teacher mysteriously stopped coming over to teach me. Less than a couple of months, in other words. My dad tried valiantly to steer me towards the harmonium but when the harmonium instructor too stopped coming over, he gave up. And with a huge sigh of relief, so did I.
My grandmom had been told by some seer that I’d become a doctor. I only remember thinking at the time that I’d rather be a nurse, because they get to wear stockings and look nice, while doctors just end up looking like busy people with a lot of work on their hands and minds.
If my mother had any ambitions for me, she never mentioned them, god bless her.
I acted in amateur theatre, loving every minute before the arc lights and thought for a while about being an actress. But the bad part about being a Virgo is you’re very deeply aware of not being fantastic at something. I’m not saying my performances inspired projectile vomiting from the first rows of the audience, but I just wasn’t… phenomenal at it. Just like I wasn’t great at painting – something that had triggered the idea of becoming a commercial artist. If that had gone through, I’d still have ended up in advertising, but as an art director. Probably with a tendency of reading – and criticizing – what my copy partner had written.
But in junior college, I met someone who made journalism look cool. So I tried my hand at it – freelancing for youth magazines and writing deeply philosophical features on types of boyfriends. It was fun, but it wasn’t IT. Then someone gave me a book on careers and up popped this thing called advertising.
I want to say there was a flash of lightning. I want to believe that something hidden deep inside me rose to embrace this novel concept.
No such thing happened. I believe my exact reaction was “Oh.” My parents’ exact reaction was “Oh. Shit.”
Cut to five years later, I’m churning out headlines and TV scripts and ideas for ways to seriously disturb people as they watch Baalika Vadhu or even take a harmless stroll in the mall. It’s been fun so far, in the same way that throwing up nine consecutive times after drinking half the bar and eating half the buffet can be fun.
I don’t hate it. I don’t know if it is IT. But for now, I’m here. I’m a copywriter.
As for what I will be when I grow up…
Let’s pretend I’m staring at you dumbly at this point. You know what to do.