Last week my aunt Nikki came to visit. She’s the type of family member that asks how you’re doing and really wants to know the answer, whatever it is. Also, with a background as a councilor at a local university’s student services division, she always knows which questions to ask to get you thinking.
When I told her how I was doing at work, I had to admit I had just gone through a challenging period, coming to grips with the fact that bars and expectations were being raised, as more experienced colleagues moved on to new jobs and I was now often the most experienced person in the room.
Of course Nikki knows of my “lack of ambition” and / or “fear of responsibility” and presented me with the following riddle:
When you say you see the absence of ambition as a strength and a tool to protect and guarantee your own happiness, it sounds like it all stems from a fear of failure; either in the eyes of others [aka my parents] or your own. To what extent is this a twisted attempt to regulate the expectations of your parents?
Now… obviously… you know… it’s clear that… stuff is just not… sometimes, you see… yeah. no.
Let’s just say there’s a reason why it took me over a week to put this thought process into words.
Growing up as a third culture kid, I always had ideas about having a job later on that would take me around the world. I remember loving the idea of being a stewardess, and at some point dreamt of being a “Flying Doctor”, a development worker or a diplomat.
This last idea was mostly my mother’s. It was something that she started saying jokingly, especially when I tried to negotiate myself out of a sticky situation. Up to this day it’s something she says to me every now and then, as an afterthought; “you really would’ve made a good diplomat, you know…”.
It wasn’t until I started studying at Leiden University, – which is close to the Netherlands’ diplomatic center: the Hague – that I really realized how wrong she really was.
I so clearly lack the cut throat mentality it takes to even get into “het klasje” (meaning “the small classroom”, the term used in the Netherlands to refer to the diplomatic training institute), let alone to ever hold a position as diplomat. Also, the fact I suck at small talk and always forget to ask crucial questions such as “what does your father do” and “which university (and fraternity) did you attend”, doesn’t help.
I admit that when I go to work in the morning (in the Hague) and I hear the tip-tapping of hurried high heels walking behind (and all around) me, I get really annoyed. In my mind, that quick paced person is “one of them”; an ambitious self-proclaimed Barbie feminist. She’s probably overworked and on the verge of a burn-out, but is comforted by the idea that she’s “made it”. She looks herself in the mirror each morning and reminds herself this government job is exactly where she has always wanted to be. She just finished reading Ivanka Trump’s book.
WOW! This was a really round about way to arrive at the point… I apologize… Are you still with me?
I think the point is: I really don’t like those people and don’t want to be like them.
I’m actually really pleased I came up with Ivanka Trump as a reference. I don’t know how I would’ve explained this, without her and the video above. (honestly though… Is she for real??)
So yah… In my mind being ambitious has become synonymous to become an Ivanka Trump category person.
What I still have to figure out now, is if I can really answer my aunt Nikki’s question with “no, this has nothing to do with my parents”, which I would very much like to do.
I admit that my logic is still a bit fucked up and perhaps something I should work on. I would really like to be able to say that all though my lack of ambition may be based on silly reasoning, it’s definitely more than just a lingering rebellious spasm of puberty.
It’s driven by more than just my inner-child saying “I just don’t feel like doing what you want, mom”.