There are few questions worse than “so, what are you going to do with your life?” I remember trying out different answers throughout my teens. I’d go to university and become a lawyer. I’d become a journalist. I’d take a mad leap and follow music wherever it led me. Each answer elicited a different but predictable response; law was a great idea, journalism would be acceptable but “wouldn’t pay much” and music required a “back-up plan”.
I returned to my high school a few weeks ago. It was entirely bizarre being back on campus, bringing back a flood of memories. Most of all, I remembered my final year and the sense of pressure I carried around with me as I ran from class to sport to music to prefect duties. I could almost feel the old tension in my shoulders as I walked across the quad. There was so much pressure to go to university, to decide on a career, to make the momentous call about what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I was 18 years old. It was nuts.
I had returned there to talk to a group of students. They were amazing. We talked about the media, about #BlackLivesMatter, about the power of writing. Then we started talking about university. I asked who was freaked out about university. At least 10 hands went up.
It’s absolutely normal to feel a sense of anxiety about change and about the future, especially when school ends for good, but why are we feeling freaked out about the first steps of the journey? This whole idea that you have to have it all figured out when you’re 18? I’m gonna call it. It’s bullshit.
I’m 26 and I still don’t have it all figured out. How can you? You never know what’s around the corner. The idea that you have to do everything ‘right’ is fundamentally flawed. The examples are numerous: Steve Jobs, Oprah, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg were all college dropouts. Walt Disney didn’t even finish high school. That’s not to say that school and university are pointless. Education can be an incredible and life-changing pursuit, but the idea that you have to do everything right; you have to go to university, you have to get a degree, you have to use that degree to get into a career that you’ll stay in for the rest of your life is, frankly, crap.
As is the notion that you have to have the ‘right’ sort of career. My own experience with the ‘law is good, music is bad’ narrative has often made me think. I’m endlessly glad that I ignored the people steering me towards the “sensible” choice. With no offence intended to lawyers, I personally would’ve been bored stiff. I would’ve missed out on a slew of amazing, hilarious, heart-breaking, mind-blowing life experiences. I wouldn’t have decided to go university two years after leaving high school to study what I was actually interested in. I would’ve looked back at my music dreams and wondered ‘what if…?’
What I wish I knew when I was 18 is that it’s pretty hard to completely fuck it all up. If you don’t get the grades you need you can sit a bridging course, if you start a degree and hate it you can change it, if you start a career and hate it you can change it, if you don’t want to go to university there are a million other things you can do. If you take time out to travel and work and don’t meet some arbitrarily defined milestone it doesn’t matter. It will be okay.
Despite what well-meaning people may lead us to believe, there is no formula for life. There are people to meet, places to visit, experiences to shake you to your core, dreams to chase, challenges to conquer and so many things you can’t learn in a classroom. As a musician, I’ve knocked up against people’s ideas of what I should be doing for years. The truth, or at least my truth, is that I should be doing what feels right for me, not what feels right for someone else. Living for every day, rather than living for the weekends. Taking each twist in the road as a new adventure, rather than looking for “Plan B”.
So what am I going to do with my life? Passionately, wildly, daringly, open-heartedly, unapologetically, I’m simply going to live it.Support Villainesse