People talk all the time about what they want to do career wise, how they want a house and a family and a retirement plan that is sustainable so they can travel and grow vegetables and be happy, whatever the hell that means. It’s odd really, because I know very few people who actually grow vegetables at my age and enjoy it. I don’t see how you’d start loving that when you turn 60, but each to their own. I have no idea how people know what they will want in 40 years, let a lone what will make them happy at that point.
I think our generation, at least, has managed to let go of the idea that you need to know what career you want when you’re 16. I think things have changed a lot since I was at school. I was under a lot of pressure when I was in school to go to uni. I was academically gifted and was basically told that my only options were going to uni or getting a dead end job in McDonalds, in which I am effectively accepting that I’m a failure. Firstly, McDonalds is a great company in a lot of ways. They provide a lot of management training if you want it and they offer flexible working if you have other priorities. It’s only a dead end job if you make it into one. Secondly, looking at employment statistics, 82% of graduates were employed in 2017, compared to 78% of people of the same age who didn’t have a degree. A 4% difference is notable, but really, is it enough to pressure people into feeling like they have to go to uni to achieve something? Then there are the people who have no idea what they want to do before they’re 21. Who can blame them really, with the limited options and exposure to the job market that the national curriculum gives them? I always wanted to help people, so naturally I gravitated towards the caring professions, but I was mature enough to know that there was a lot I didn’t know, and one of those things was what jobs people actually do in the real world. I was fortunate to have my mum to support me in making decisions which were off the beaten path, so I left school and fell into business management. At 16, if you had told me that I would be good at business I probably would’ve laughed in your face. Capitalism bullshit that only hurts people. I’ve found my way into using my skills into helping people in my own way now though, and I’m much more prepared to invest the time and money that education takes, in myself and my future.
I still have no idea what I want to do. I have ambition, maybe too much sometimes. I want everything. I want to write a book, I want to live comfortably, without worrying about money, I want to travel more. But I also don’t want those things enough to be miserable. I make decisions daily, about how I am going to live, just the same as everyone else, but my main priority is always my mental health. I keep in mind that not all instant gratification is good and I’ve got to know myself well enough to know what has a bad impact later on (sleep for instance, is key). I think sometimes people mistake my priorities for their own issues. Of course there are people who are terrified to leave the safety net of their boring jobs, some people have a fear of failure so just never try, some people don’t like to think too deeply about what they want in case they never have it. I’m not those people. I know I have a lot of options ahead of me, sometimes that’s a little scary. I’m stressed out at the moment of the idea of going back to uni, just because it’s getting closer and closer to graduation and it’s really important to me that I do this right. Of course I can get a first, anyone can if they put in the work, but if I don’t the I’ll know I sacrificed that for something more important. Uni is absolutely the top of my list and when I’m done with that, my career (whatever I choose that to be) will replace it. But I’ll never regret compromising a result for the sake of my well-being if that what it takes. Maybe it sounds backwards, but I think it’s this attitude that will make me successful in whatever I choose to do. Only by chasing the next best thing and putting status on a pedestal can you forever feel like you’re reaching for something that doesn’t exist.
That’s what I mean when I say I want to like myself. I have no idea where I’ll end up, I might work with my degree, maybe I won’t, maybe I’ll even grown some vegetables. Sure, I want to be happy, but no one’s happy all the time and actually, I’m doing pretty good right now. For me, my aspiration is to know myself, to keep learning about myself and to like what I see. If I don’t like it, then I’m going to change it. I’m working harder at that every day and it’s only helping me achieve in every other part of my life. So, I’m letting go of societies expectations and what everyone else thinks I’m capable of because I know I’m towards something far more important and far more sustainable. Everything else will work out.