Have we killed our children’s dreams?

By Andrew Taylor


WHERE HAVE ALL THE dreams of the young people in Malaysia gone?

Actually, the real question is, “Where is all the support for young people who have dreams, but are discouraged to follow them so to avoid failure and risk?” Alert… Alert…we have a national emergency on our hands! Actually, it’s more like an international emergency!

There are far too many teenagers in Malaysia who are having their dreams stripped of them because they are being told that they can’t do something. There is an extraordinary amount of young people who are too intelligent, creative, diligent, and artistic to be told that they must shun their goals, dreams, and desires for the sake of ‘playing it safe’, so that they don’t fail in life. And, these evolved minds and remarkable talents will just wither away and end up in a trash heap with the rest of the rubbish in this wonderful country.

These clever beings with their fresh ideas and forward thinking will be absent in the future strengthening and building of this glorious country of Malaysia. Their meticulous work ethic and passion for solving problems will be absent in the unifying and growing of this world society. And that is truly a shame. It’s a problem that effects everyone.

As a teacher, I have heard from students, time and time again, that they can’t strive for their dreams because of this ridiculous idea that has been instilled inside their mind that it’s not possible. They are instead told that they must choose the easy path…one in which they are more likely to attain a job. Now, parents have a tough task on their hands, no matter whether it’s in Malaysia, America, Japan, or on planet Mars. They have the most important job in this world, which is to care for and raise their child, so that they grow up to be a healthy, educated, and positive-minded person in life.

More often than not, I hear young people tell me that they can’t move away to college because they need to stay close to home (even a college located a couple of states away in the same country). They’re not allowed to study dance or music because these jobs won’t pay the bills and support the family. Instead, they have to go into the military, or find a university close to home that doesn’t offer the courses and degree they are passionate about studying and obtaining. They are told to become a lecturer, or to study medicine, because they will be more likely to ‘succeed’ studying and working in these fields.

Now, don’t get my words mixed up…teachers, nurses, and doctors, are some of the most important and needed jobs in the world. But is it wise to tell a young girl who has a dream of acting on Broadway that she has to go study to be a lecturer because that’s what will pay the rent? Is her mind, heart, intellect, and spirit being honoured by telling her to avoid her passion?

A teacher friend of mine in Perak, recently told me about a student of hers, who just a couple of months ago, received a scholarship to go study culinary arts in France. But he declined the opportunity because his mother said no. A form 5 student of mine wants to study dance, but her parents tell her no, because they want her to be a lecturer. I’ve had countless other students who want to study acting, music, art, tourism, and law, but they are not encouraged to follow these paths by their parents. It’s the same story over and over again. I’ve even talked to adults who have experienced the same when they were a teenager, but had to defy their mothers and fathers in order to achieve the dreams they had.

Now, I know what some of you may be saying… “How dare this 30-something American, come into our country and tell us how to raise our children! He comes from a wealthy, highly developed and educated country where life is easier. If my child doesn’t get a job then she won’t be able to earn a living and help support her parents. If my child goes away to college, then he will forget me and I will never see him again.”

Folks, don’t let these blockbuster movies like ‘Fast And The Furious’ and ‘Iron Man’ taint your perception of what America really is. The country that I was born and raised in has wealthy, poor, homeless, and everything in between. There is racism, pollution, social issues, black skin, white skin, brown, red, purple and green. There is ‘big business’, shady politics, and people dying because they don’t have enough money to pay hospital bills to help cure their diseases. And, yes, there are parents who do try and dissuade their children from going after their dreams because they think they know what’s best for them. I don’t want to get too political here, but these are some of the same issues present in Malaysia.

But it doesn’t make a difference where we live, or what line of work we’re in, whether it’s a farmer in a small kampung in the highlands of Sarawak or the CEO of a wealthy banking company in Kuala Lumpur. It is mandatory that we support our children. We must nurture our young people with the idea that anything is possible and that if they work hard enough, that they can be and do anything their heart desires. We must tell them to go after their dreams. Do not fear the possible disappointment they may feel if they don’t achieve it on the first try. Fear, the mind of limitation they may gain from them not pursuing a life which is their own.

I invite both parents and young people to answer this question: ”At the end of your beautiful and long life, would you rather be able to say that you had a life of ‘what if’s’, or a life of, ‘oh wells’? We must let our children try.

We must tell our children that they can. And, if they try and don’t get it the first time, then we support them for future attempts. There is no such thing as failure except for when a person doesn’t try. When you fall down, you get back up and you keep moving forward. You may earn a couple of bumps and bruises along the way, but these just get you closer to achieving your dreams and possessing a life that is happy and absent of regrets. Our children must stop having their hopes deflated. It is crucial that we start blowing that air of encouragement through their minds and spirits so that they have the confidence to be the leaders of their own life. The WORLD needs the spirit of Malaysia’s youth because they have a ton to offer.

Help your kids FIND and BE themselves…for that is what life is all about.



Andrew Taylor hails from Los Angeles, California. He is a Fulbright Fellow under the United States Department of State, teaching here in Malaysia.
Previously he taught at a Vokasional school in Perak and last year he has felt so blessed to be living and teaching in Sarawak at SMK Siburan outside of Kuching.
He loves working with young people, but especially the youth of Malaysia. For Andrew, it’s an everyday occurrence to be inspired by his students and their unique inquisitiveness, kindness, and eagerness to gain new knowledge. Their smiles and sunny disposition are what make his days beautiful.
Sarawak and its people, culture, food, and splendid scenery, have become a place that Andrew truly loves and he feels fortunate to be able to call it his home.


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