The sudden, pressing future

Picture this: you’re happily bobbing along in a nice little boat; you’ve been on this little, safe boat for as long as you can remember. Occasionally you think about when you get off this little boat but really there isn’t much to think about because you know why you got on this boat, you you’re your destination. Sometimes people tell you, you need to think about what’s going to happen when you get off the boat, when you reach the shore but why? Why think about that when it’s clearly so far away? Then one day someone tells you, the journey is almost over and you can see the distance, you don’t have a guaranteed destination, you have a thousand and one different places and they’re all so hard to get to. Some have passwords you don’t know and bridges that are too tall, someone tells you that a few of them people can’t even reach.  In fact there are some you were supposed to have turned your little boat towards a long time ago if you ever intended to reach it. The sea is suddenly choppier and there are people everywhere, flooding to the islands you want.

That is how I felt walking into the first day of my last year of high school (in a very convoluted, confusing analogy).  Unsuspecting, I walk into a bombardment of power point presentations on ‘careers’ and ‘further education’. My brain is full of thoughts and ideas and I suddenly feel the pressure that the people around me had seen the whole time.We are put into education at the age of 5 and we grow up attending school every day until all of sudden that obligation is gone and we have to choose what to do next. It simultaneously feels like having the world lying at your feet and having it leave you to fend for yourself.

At age 5 it had been a game- ‘when I’m older I want to be a ballerina’ (coming from a girl with two left feet who will now avoid dancing at all costs) and the like. Now it’s not a game and you have to decide in 3 months. I am not someone who has always known what I want to be. It has changed daily. If all my past selves put in their piece, I would be well on my way to being a part ballerina, part doctor, part writer, part artist, part fashion designer, one woman wonder.  But opinions change so easily. In that room, staring at that screen, I felt like doors I had assumed were still open were being slammed in my face. I needed work experience for that, a talent for this and a truck load of certainty about everything. Of course, this was not what they were trying to get across, but once I had put myself on that train of thought, there was no getting off.

I was being fed this idea that I had to choose one thing and I had to choose it now, something that would send most high school students into panic. This however is not necessarily the case. Keep all the doors open you can for as long as you can, don’t allow anyone to force you down a path, only to realise too late that you shut off all the other routes you could have chosen in doing so. Go to night classes if need be, experience everything that interests you, don’t miss the thing that could’ve been perfect for you by hurling yourself down one career path with tunnel vision. My mind changes so easily and is interested in so many things, I’m not ready to choose yet, I’m not ready to close off options for good yet.

Instead, I did an assortment of things: I began filling notebooks with ideas, researching courses, watching advice videos and coming out just as confused on the other side. Most of all though I reached out to the people around me, I told them my ideas, my possible options and something interesting happened. The people who were once telling me to reach for the stars, were now telling me to aim lower, to play it safe. The people who told me you’ll never know unless you try were the ones telling me to give it a miss because they don’t think I’ll make it. Aunties and uncles who usually only have the question ‘how are you?’ suddenly have a novel of career and general life advice, life mottos you’ve never heard them utter before, they suddenly have surprisingly strong opinions on someone they only have a brief conversation with once a year. There are of course a select few that still preach dream chasing and wishing on lucky stars. I by no means mean to say that I don’t appreciate every piece of advice I’m given, I need all of the advice I can get and being realistic is fair enough.

However, I did slowly but surely begin to create my own life advice so here is my piece for my own and yours if you’ll take it. If not now when? This is the point at which you have to choose to take the risk because in a month or two the risk will be gone and someone braver than you will have what you want. While I’m not encouraging reckless, crazy behaviour, I think a calculated risk is okay. Don’t make that decision and then expect everything to fall magically into place like the end of a feel good movie. You have to act, you have to work for it, start revising for those exams, get work experience with that one newspaper or magazine, start creating your own band, design some clothes, just don’t sit around waiting for the cartoon light-bulb to appear above your head with the perfect effortless way to get everything you want. Maybe you’ll fail, but I would rather go down a weird path of exciting risks than wonder what could’ve been.