When I was in kindergarten, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, so she can note it in the descriptive section of my report card going home. Untainted by societal and cultural expectations at the tender age of five, I responded, “A dollar store cashier.”
The thought of being a cashier at that time, specifically at the Dollar Store, absolutely thrilled me. It didn’t even bother me in the slightest when I heard that my friend had listed doctor as hers. But it certainly did bother my mother when she read my report card on our walk home from school that day.
“A dollar store cashier?!” I thought she would faint from shock. She was especially worried what my dad would say when he saw it. “If he asks, you want to be a doctor, okay?” I was completely confused but I agreed. I continued to obediently agree up until the age of 17, when I was starting to apply to university. Sadly, I no longer wanted to be a Dollar Store cashier but I definitely was not planning to be a doctor. As heartbreaking as it was at first for my parents, they eventually accepted my decision to go into International Business.
One of the reasons I will never regret taking this program is because it gave me the opportunity to study abroad. As I’ve always liked learning but was never a fan of school, my experience abroad exposed me to alternative forms of schooling.
One of the best courses I have taken to date is a Business Communications course in Toulouse, France. Three fabulous British ladies taught the course. It was completely hands on and practical. Instead of reading from a textbook about the art of communications, we were doing interactive activities and having open discussions. We explored things like what are people’s first impressions of you and why? If you had to sell yourself, what would you say? What do you think are your strengths and what do OTHER people think are your strengths? We studied body language, practiced public speaking and the dynamics of a team in various scenarios. We studied human behavior and more importantly, we studied ourselves. I can confidently say that a good chunk of what I learned from this course is something I still refer back to this day and that’s not something I can say about most of my courses.
Recently, headlines were made for Finland’s complete overhaul in their school system by removing subjects and replacing them with topics. Finland has been known to have one of the best educational systems in the world and I caught a glimpse of this when I visited Helsinki in 2012. I was able to visit one of their design museums and there was an exhibition done completely by students. We learned that students at a very young age would learn design alongside professionals in very practical ways. For example, they would be given the scenario that a natural disaster such as a hurricane has hit the city and they had to come up with a temporary shelter in response. On display were then the prototypes constructed based off the students’ ideas for a shelter.
It was absolutely brilliant and I wished that I had this sort of schooling when I was growing up. Even now, I feel there are still so many things out there to do and explore. I think back to the answer I gave as a little kid and wonder if we were all better off as children in terms of spirit and attitude. We didn’t worry about risks and expectations. We were curious about everything. We were naïve but free. We didn’t care about being something or someone as much as we just wanted to have fun.
I recently revisited Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Speech in 2005 where he talked about dropping out of his major in college to only take courses that interested him such as calligraphy. He continued on to talk about the importance of finding what it is that you love. He finished his speech by advising the graduates with the famous “Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.” in reflecting in all of this, I think it’s also important to add “Stay Childlike.”
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. Stay Childlike.
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” – John Lennon