After reading Emma Blackery and Carrie Fletcher’s debate about ‘ambition’ and what it means to say that a goal is ‘unrealistic’, I couldn’t help but think about what it means to say that.
To me, I get ‘ideas’ throughout my life about what I want to do. At the moment, that’s living in Edinburgh and doing a stand up comedy routine ‘one day’. I kind of think the ‘one day’ is what makes the major difference. Whether I live in Edinburgh for university, take a year out, move there full time or it will remain the proverbial ‘one day’, these options leave it hanging in mid air. I think the point where this ‘idea’ would turn out to be an ‘ambition’ is the point where I start to look at flats with the serious intention to buy them, or actually start writing some jokes. I have done neither of those things.
To me, what constitutes an ‘ambition’ is a goal that you’re prepared to do the work for; say my current ambition is to do well in my A-Levels, I’m aware that I have to sit down and revise until I want to lie on the ground having an existential crisis before this can happen. When Carrie decided that she wanted to play Eponine, she continually practiced singing and acting. However, Carrie was lucky enough that her ambition was not unrealistic to her.
It seems to me that Carrie was incredibly fortunate in having parents who nurtured her ability; she said herself that her parents went to every effort to make sure that from a young age, she was equipped for her ambition in a way that you can’t fault. Unfortunately, a lot of people’s ambitions are restricted by earlier experiences. I come from a background where me and most like me get a lot of opportunity, yet if I decided I wanted to play Eponine right now, it couldn’t happen, due to my lack of stage experience and/or ability to make a pleasant sounding noise come out of my mouth.
For some people, this ambition becomes a bit tougher. People are born into difficult situations where they are not equipped in the same way, where the realistic goals of others become near impossibilities. Almost no-ambition is ‘impossible’, but I think that’s an entirely different thing to ‘unrealistic’. Fortune plays a big part in it; not the ‘fate’ kind of fortune, but simply whether or not you were lucky enough to have your talents nurtured.
An ambition becomes ‘unrealistic’ a) when you call it an ambition without being prepared to do the work or b) when you’re in a situation where it becomes incredibly difficult. Emma mentioned her sister wanting to become a princess. To some, perhaps born into the aristocracy of 19th century novels, this is possible, but the probability is probably considerably lower when you’re born in modern Britain. To say an ambition (within the bands of physics and worldly possibilities) is ‘impossible’ is wrong, but so is to say that nothing can be called ‘unrealistic’.
I would never say that you shouldn’t dream about something. But I think every person has a duty to themselves to know what they are and aren’t willing to do.
I think we as people have responsibility to help and encourage those who are starting from an unrealistic ambition to make it realistic. We need to find ways to recognise the talents of people and not only let them know that it can be done, but support them in the doing.
Just some clumsy thoughts there.