I’m one of the oldest of my friends, meaning I hit 20 first. It was the first birthday that I genuinely felt older; the fact I’d never be a teenager again really freaked me out! For the first time I actually stepped back and thought about what I was doing with my life and it dawned on me that I was a real grown up. I had goals, a plan, a job, I’m in bed by 8pm with a hot chocolate (no I’m joking)… but when did this all happen!?
As the months have passed and my friends have joined me in Grannyville they’ve all said a similar thing. How they feel that bit more aware of their age and where they’re headed in life. Now don’t take me too literally, we’re not crying in the corner wondering why we’re not married and own our own companies. We’re well aware that 20 is still super young; it just seems that it’s the age we really became aware of what’s coming next.
It’s exciting but bloody terrifying at the same time. It never bothered me before that I didn’t know what I wanted to be in the future, but suddenly I needed a plan. All of my friends in their 2nd year of university are looking for internships and telling me how important it is to get one for your future career. How do I get a relevant internship when I don’t even know what I want to be!?
I relive this conversation each time a friend has their twentieth and each time it makes me smile. I’ve had 6 months to get over my flappy panic and I’ve realised my perfect career has been under my nose the whole time – facilitating performance art. I’ve been doing it for years as a hobby anyway and every time I try to pull away from it I end up back in the thick of things pretty quickly. And that’s why seeing my friends do the flappy twentieth panic makes me smile; because we’re all going to be fine. Deep down they all know what they love and where they want to be in the future, they’re just over thinking things and doubting themselves.
Personally I think it’s due to growing up in an environment like the city. It’s drummed into us from so young that we need to succeed: ‘The economy is tough! You need to get the highest grades at school, go to a good college, get into the best university, this will get you a great job, become the manager of that great job’ etc. It’s become so engrained in us that we now have this ridiculous anxiety about having a plan for the next 25 years. I’ve realised how unhealthy this kind of culture is; many of us miss out on a lot of the carefree joys of being kids and teenagers because schools put the fear of failure into us. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be encouraged to do well and fulfil our potential but I don’t agree with these scare tactics of ‘if you don’t do well in school you’ll never be able to succeed’. It’s for me to set the standards for myself, if I’m happy with what I achieve then that’s what matters. Being the CEO of a company isn’t the only definition of success; it differs for everyone. In my eyes, if you’re happy then congratulations my friend, that’s the highest success you can get. There’s no point having bag loads of qualifications, money and responsibility if you’re miserable.
In short what I’m saying is don’t waste your life trying to reach the standards someone else has set for you. Follow your gut, do the things that make you happy and appreciate all of the little things along the way. If you don’t want to go to university – don’t go! If you want to pursue a career in music instead of medicine – do it! Life is too short for what if’s, and after years of anxiety and putting pressure on myself, I’m glad I’ve finally realised it.