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By Sarah James-Cyrus

Sunday, September 19, 2010.


"The two hardest things to handle in life are failure & success."-Anonymous

A  doctor, politician, singer, human rights leader, accountant....What did you dream of being when you were younger? Have you ever been shortlisted on the Sunday Times Rich list or received any awards for achievement in your field? Have you married that tall, dark, handsome stranger and settled in that cute semi-detached house with your perfect 2.4 family?

For most people, September is one of those monotonous and uneventful months. It marks the end of the exotic holidays abroad and the beginning of the cold winter months, the kids returning to school and everyone reluctantly falling back into their tedious routines.  However, it can be a perfect time to reflect on our dreams and aspirations, re-evaluate the choices we have made so far and take positive steps to achieve the things we want. Have you ever wondered why that burning passion and drive that fuel us in our earlier years, wither away with obstructions, until it is finally blown out by the harsh reality of life?

At a young age, our dreams are pure and uncomplicated, as the seeds to the garden of our own imaginations are watered with countless possibilities. We are thought that the world is our oyster, everything is possible and that there is no such word as ‘can’t.’  However, as we grow up, maturity and experience change our outlook. The dream to become a CEO of a company may be replaced with the maternal impulse to be the best mother. Whilst the reverie of being an M15 employee may seem farfetched, once you are advised of the sacrifices that are expected, for the amount they are prepared to pay you.

It is human nature to dream, aspire and set objectives for one self, but ambition itself can be a double edge sword; like a weapon, it can have disastrous effects if placed in the wrong hands. On one hand, standards should be set, inspirations met and dreams/aspirations put in place. Millions were never made by being complacent and comfortable but let’s be honest, risks can only be taken if you are proactive and have direction.  However, chasing unrealistic dreams can lead to extreme disappointment, disillusionment and disenchantment! 

Sadly, our youth are coming to this conclusion at an extremely early age, without the necessary life experience and knowledge to make that evaluation. For some, the necessity to gain a degree is overshadowed by the ‘instant gratification’ mentality. They are not prepared to invest the time, money and mental energy to obtain that qualification. Instead they are subtly brainwashed by the media, influenced by their friends and taught to expect money, status and respect without working for it.

The lure of becoming a rapper/singer becomes a strong possibility and the aspiration to become part of a gang, is fuelled by the movies that glamorise the gangster lifestyle and programmes of spoilt rich children demanding lavish birthday parties from their celebrity parents. Have you considered where this ‘get rich or die trying’ mentality has emerged from? Given the choice, many young people have dismissed the structured career path, for the unsavoury, dangerous and murky world of drug/sex trafficking, (possibly seeing it as a quicker and easier route to achieve success). 

Human nature calls for us to want identity, recognition, money and love. The problem today is that it appears easier to gain a name from notoriety, than for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Unfortunately, reiterating the works of famous scholars, politicians and psychologists, appear to have very little effect on the young people who are being enrolled as thieves, drug mules and assassinators. Gangs have been around for over 170 years and with the increasingly violent and callous mindset of some, it is difficult to see how this problem can be eradicated.

At such a young age, our youths are susceptible to outside negative influences and will not understand the consequences behind the buzz of seeing the premier of their video on You Tube.  On initial induction, they will not consider the added risks posed by gang membership. No one will explain the repercussions of joining this new family; the lowered life span, lack of loyalty, effects of the drugs and the fact that there is no get out clause. Sadly, experience will teach them that the same individuals that promise them the world, will equally be capable of shattering it with a gunshot.

 The key is to catch your child in the early stages. Talk to them, encourage them to want more than a life span of eighteen years, looking over their shoulder and praise their small achievements, (so they associate recognition and respect with positive things). The beginning of a new school gives one the opportunity to start all over again, as grades can be improved and new associations can be formed.

Encourage your children to dream realistically,

Encourage them to strive to reach their goals, but most importantly,

Encourage them to aspire for more than a tag name, superficial respect and an AK47!

 Sarah James-Cyrus is a trainee barrister and currently works as a Communications Officer for the Metropolitan Police Service in London.


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