When I was ten, I knew what I wanted in life. I wanted to be a vet. Veterinary was too long a word then for my little tongue to twist around. I wanted to make all the sick animals well, especially the gentle brown dogs of the world. Though I wonder where I got the notion that dogs were mainly brown and gentle. And of course I would not treat those cold creepy crawly reptiles in the world. After all I was a vet, I would only treat pets and no one keeps any other pet but nice gentle brown dogs.
Then I found out that I would have to put some of my patients to sleep. And I could not bear the thought of putting any brown gentle dog to sleep even though I was sure they would end up in Doggy Heaven.
Then I grew up and got to see the world a little bit more. So, when I was seventeen, I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to build the world. I wanted to scatter the world with my namesake. I wanted to build buildings that soared to the sky, buildings that welcomed people and buildings that were landmarks. I wanted my buildings to be used when giving directions. I wanted my building to be the first one a visitor spots and remembers.
I remember having this feeling spark up every time I traveled to Penang. Approaching the island, I could envision my building standing out in the skyline. And my building would be that destination every visitor will head for as soon as they arrive in my little paradise hometown island.
Then I discovered that my visions of tall beautiful buildings might not materialize. I was told that importance would be placed on functionality instead of creativity. No one wanted an odd egg-shaped building that had to be partitioned into square cubicles inside leaving the empty areas of circumferences idle.
I had not given up in dreams yet. If I could not build those buildings, may be I could own them. It would seem my dreams were getting more and more out of proportion. But then I was fresh out of school and in college and the world as they say was my oyster. I was the conqueror. Wait, ol’ world! Wait for me to step out into the workforce. What a force I would be. My vision became that of a lady in a smart suit, with a confident smile, a black, sleek, long chauffeur driven car and an office on the 32nd floor overlooking some crowded city.
I am now 6 years into my working life. Are my steps in line with my dreams or have I lost my way?
I do not have an office on the 32nd floor in any weird shaped circumference building. I do not have that view of some crowded city. I do not get driven to work in a black, sleek or long chauffeur driven car. I do not have any building named after me. In fact I walk in town with my head slightly bowed rushing like all others towards the train station. No one knows me and I know no one. It would seem my existence had no impact on the world at all.
But even as I walk to the train, my steps are fast, short and impatient. I have a destination.
At the end of my train ride, I know I have someone waiting for me. It may not be as comfortable as that long, black sleek car with leather seats but comfort I realized comes with the ability to unwind as soon as you get in. And when I get home, I would have my family there and my gentle brown dog that I know I would never have to put to sleep. And I may not have that skyscraper that everyone knows and talks about but I have a small lodging up in the sky on the 9th floor that my family visits as soon as they arrive in my town.
So my dreams have indeed come true. I have come to realize it does not matter about the impact we create in the world. Rather what matters more is the impact we create in our own individual world. The world takes and takes from us without giving anything in return despite any sacrifices that we make. In my little world however, we give and take, bearing in each other’s weakness and rejoicing in strengths. Each sacrifice melts into acts of willingness.
My dreams are no longer visions of on high – that view from the 32nd floor, tall buildings that reach the sky, high heels and long cars. My dreams are now closer to the ground. In the 6 years I have seen that the higher you climb, the more you gain outwardly but lose inwardly. The view on the 32nd floor may be splendid but it is lonely and much farther away from Heaven. As a future wife and mother, it no longer concerns me to be a force in the world. Rather my energy ought concentrate on my little Heaven called Family. In giving up the world, I have gained Heaven.