Decided to write about ambitions after reading Mimi's When I Grow Up. As with all other imaginative children my ambitions were the likes of Prime Minister of Malaysia or Chief Minister of Penang back then. Back then you don't have to be responsible for what comes out of your mouth. Sooner or later we learned that politics are not child's play - so that got scrapped off our ambition list when Mum and Dad think you are old enough.
Then somewhere along the way my babysitter's daughter, Ms. Kathy, materialized in the large colonial house where my babysitter lived. She was an air stewardess - back then the title was so nice: steward, stewardess; now they're all uniformly called cabin crew or flight attendant - really takes the fun out of flying. She taught me an entire new world up in the air, from the very basic of "yes, please" and "no, thank you" - can you believe it? Mum and Dad never taught me that! - to caviar and foie gras. Back then the best job one can find with the airline is a pilot - a jumbo jet pilot.
So from Standard 1 to Standard 4 in primary school I tried hard in maths - because a pilot has to have good mathematic skills, or else the aeroplane will not carry enough fuel to fly from London to Kuala Lumpur and we will land in the middle of Africa. However, back then primary school mathematics were all about how many pencils one can buy with 2 dollars and how many apples you left after giving away 2 to Siti and 1 to Ali. And we didn't even start English until Standard 4 - what a shame for children aspiring to become airline pilots!
Nevertheless, my pilot dreams were shattered one day when I discovered I can't see the TV screen clear enough even from 2 feet away. I got my first pair of glasses a week after that. I knew from the very beginning pilots must have perfect eyesight, but children nowadays have to study so much its a miracle they don't develop short-sightedness before leaving primary school - so there goes my ambition of flying a jumbo jet all around the world.
Then start my mundane and tuition-packed life in secondary school. Both my parents are teachers, so we live a life just sufficient for some occassional luxuries of life and that's that. Mum and Dad made it very clear to me that if I really want something big I will have to sweat it out myself. So since I've lost my perfect eyesight I start to study really hard - and high school was not difficult because all you have to do is complete all the model tests and exercises in your teacher's favorite reference book. Whether we have lost our creativity as we age or by coincidence, a number of exam paper questions will always be from reference book exercises or model test papers.
When I was in Form 3 I applied for an ASEAN scholarship. During the interview my prim and proper female interviewer asked me about my ambition - as with all other unimaginative Malaysian boy I answered "I would like to become a doctor!" The interviewer snobbishly said "We Singaporeans never open our medical courses for foreigners!" (she never actually said that, but something to that extent).
It might be righteousness, or some young hunky guts back then, I decided there and then I will become a doctor no matter what.
When I actually got the scholarship I rejected it because I won't be able to pursue what I righteously think I would become.
Gradually over Form 4 and Form 5 I learned that it's not easy becoming a doctor. I will spare the details this time - in short, you have to be intelligent, compassionate, understanding etc. - all the qualities Buddha or Jesus possess doctors must top them with their knowledge to cure. And speaking of money *ahem* - have you noticed how much the fees are for private medical schools? Of course one can work really hard and enter a government med. school - my career counseling teacher says.
I guess I can call myself a lucky guy who get to do what he dreams of when I received my admission letter with scholarship offer from Tzu Chi University late July 2007. But there's never certain the current tide will bring us to the conventional. Nevertheless, as I've always emphasized - what our occupations are do not define who we are, it's the heart and spirit that counts. I may end up becoming a doctor, or I may not - but I will do the calling with all my heart, and persevere to what I dream I will become back then.
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