The Australian Dream

Words by Ragina Hong

When I was a kid, one of the most frequently asked questions I would receive was, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” 21 years on, I still ask myself that same question. It’s also one of my favourite conversational topics at dinner tables whether people are seven, 17, or 76. For many of us, the great Australian dream may be to own your own home, have a loving partner to share it with, and kids running around the backyard drinking Up-n-Go’s (at least that’s what ads keep telling us). The ‘dream’ has us working Monday to Friday, nine to five. Whilst that is a noble pursuit, surely the modern university student dreams of something a bit bigger or at least a little different? Tasked with turning my pure-hearted curiosity to something productive, I set off to interview a few people around me about what their dreams for the future were…

Dylan—4th year Design & Business 

What was your dream job as a child? 

I wanted to be a builder and own my own business. I figured if you’re going to contribute so much effort, you might as well be reaping your own rewards instead of someone else’s.

Are you concerned with the idea of a legacy?

Not really, that’s a slightly old-fashioned, colonial idea that you have to leave a stamp on something. I think in today’s world, that’s viewed as quite egotistical. You can have an impact on something but you shouldn’t have to be driven by narcissistic drive. Doing what you think is good should be enough of a legacy.

What’s your dream now?

To me, it’s less about a certain dream and more of a philosophy of how I want to live my life. Take responsibility for how you treat others and what you’re going to do, be earnest in your experience and interactions, be a positive influence and force within your community. The idea of working myself to the bone and not having the ability to enjoy the people around me— now that’s a nightmare. So I would just love a plot of land, my own business and to be a stay-at-home dad. 

What does future Dylan looks like?

No beard [laughs]. And I would love another ute. I love a good ute. 

Lily—3rd year Business

What was your dream job as a child? 

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a radio DJ! I used to listen to radio presenters every night before I fell asleep, listening to people talk about their problems, their love life and relationship issues. I wanted to help those people learn and understand self love.

What’s your dream now? 

I really want to be a chef, and study at Le Cordon Bleu in Sydney. But my parents don’t support me, they don’t really understand the value of being a chef. In China, it’s not really a highly regarded job, and they want me to just get my marketing degree and come back and work in the family business. But I love to cook, it’s my way of connecting to myself and a form of self care. I feel like I found my true passion.

What does your life look like in the future?

It depends on where I live. If I stay in Melbourne, I’ll probably be working in a big international marketing company. If I stay in China, I’ll be helping the family business, but be in a very high-pressure environment. The other option is to live in Thailand, living a really relaxed and simple life just hanging out by the beach–maybe that’ll come after I’ve “paid my debts” to my parents. I also want to have a small studio and a home with plants, a place that belongs to myself. When you live with a big family, you really want your own space, and I’ll work towards that. 

We’re lucky to have been exposed to so much, to see and know how big the world is and how far we can go. We’re a generation that knows no limits; we can dream as big as we want. When I spoke to family friends about this topic, we spoke about familial pressures, cultural expectations and values that limited who we grew up to be, and who we thought we could become. As a child of first-generation immigrant parents, Channy’s dream was just to go to work in a suit. In her culture, that was the pinnacle of success and prestige, compared to the rice paddy fields her parents grew up working amongst. That was the only dream she knew. The dreams of our parents’ or grandparents’ generation were based on survival and security. Our generation values something entirely different, and that gives us freedom. We have the option of passion, to do something that we love for ourselves, and hopefully serves the world around us too. Dylan and Lily are both hopeful, bright and intelligent individuals who are an interesting testament and representation of the younger generation. Maybe we’re all still a little naive in even believing in our big dreams, but so be it. With hope, trust, and maybe a little luck, things will fall into place. We’ll figure it out, and we’ll get there in the end.

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