When I Grow Up
"What do you want to be when you grow up?"
I've always questioned whether it's wrong to ask young kids this question. Is it possible to know the weight of this question at such a young age? Does this not breed a sense of urgency and pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations?
When I was asked this question at 12 years old, how could I possibly predict that I would develop a condition at 15 that I would only discover at the age of 28? This condition would impact all of my future life decisions.
An advocacy project for World Narcolepsy Day
Last year, I was honoured, once again, to be invited to participate in Project Sleep's World Narcolepsy Day Committee.
As committee members, we were free to propose ideas to celebrate the day, raise awareness, and educate people about narcolepsy.
Although I am now a "reformed" workaholic, the topic of careers continues to be something I am very passionate about, especially considering how much narcolepsy has impacted my own.
So, for World Narcolepsy Day, I had an idea to create a video compilation of different people talking about what they wanted to be when they were kids and then contrast this with what they were now doing as adults.
The 'When I Grow Up' video project
I called the video project "When I Grow Up."
Like most kids, I did not hesitate to answer when anyone asked me, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I instantly answered: "A writer!"
Since the very first time I read "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" (the American version is called "Sorcerer's Stone"), it was love at first page. I loved to read, which further fuelled my passion to write.
My worsening narcolepsy symptoms incited new dreams
However, as my narcolepsy symptoms worsened, I began to find it harder and harder to finish an entire book or sit down at the computer and write even a page. My brain felt hazy, confused, and unfocused.
As the years went by, I practically forgot my dreams of being a writer and fell into the world of events marketing. For those who have never worked in events, let me just tell you — it's harder than it looks!
The success of any event depends on the ability to plan to the tiniest detail whilst predicting all the ways in which it could go wrong so that you can anticipate a solution.
This incited a new dream - to become a wedding planner!
I had no choice but to give up that dream, too
So I worked in events for 7 years, all the while with undiagnosed narcolepsy. God only knows how many mistakes I made.
At 28 I was finally diagnosed but was adamant that I wouldn't let it interfere with my life, and I continued working as though nothing had changed. I had already given up 1 dream; I wasn't about to give up another.
As you can probably imagine, this didn't end very well, and I was left with no choice but to give up that dream, too, in order to protect my health.
Learning the importance of adjustment
But I refuse to give up or give in. I'm now working as a social media manager, and actually thinking about giving my writing dreams another try!
In the project "When I Grow Up" for World Narcolepsy Day 2021, all I wanted was to share different career experiences of people with narcolepsy. However, I came out of the project having learned something really significant — the importance of adjustment.
Kids need to believe anything is possible
As adults, we are aware that we have limitations and obstacles that we have to overcome to achieve anything. As kids, nothing is impossible, and I guess it's important to keep it this way. Kids need to dream. They need to believe anything is possible, and they can be anything they want to be. I see now that asking them about what they want to be in the future is a way of encouraging them to dream.
Nevertheless, the most important thing to remember is that as we grow up and life takes us down unexpected paths, we keep the child inside us alive and do our best to adjust to any adversities that come our way.
So... when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Where are you in your narcolepsy diagnosis journey?