Prepare yourself – this is an old school Ren rant the likes you haven’t seen in a long while on this blog. Grab a coffee and settle in.
If you know me, then you know I like watching Youtube.
Actually, Youtube has pretty much taken over my entertainment viewing. But apart from watching excessively cute videos about kittens or crazy pugs, Ghost Adventures or serials about feasts in Tudor times, I also watch those folks who have something to say to the world in the hopes that it might make one person out there in the big blue yonder feel better or stronger or just happier within themselves.
One such person is Emma Blackery. She’s a little British powerhouse of attitude and snarky English humour but one of her recent videos really struck chords with me. Even though it’s aimed towards people at least 15-20 years my junior, I found it fascinating.
I could only applaud her comments on the topic. She said things that I probably needed to hear back in the day when I was stressing over study guides, trying to pick the classes that would lead me into the designated career I might have been destined to have. Nevermind that at the grand age of 16 I was still swinging between wanting to be a palaeontologist, vet, kindergarten teacher, or speech pathologist – all in one year.
(Hint: I achieved none of these things.)
The thing that absolutely gives me the shits about high school is that at the age of 15 or 16, a young person is expected to know what they want to do with their lives. If they’re “lucky” they’re sat down with a some sort of guidance counsellor and are told what their best options are given their results in their studies to date and their own personal interests. If they’re not lucky, they will have to figure it all out on their own.
Outside of school, the REALLY unlucky ones will be having their futures decided for them by their parents who will insist they need good grades to get into the good universities to become doctors, lawyers, and similarly well-paid professionals. Because money means a good life, does it not? Everyone wants that for their kids, right? I knew so many girls in my school who were so stressed out by the need to do well in maths and sciences, all because they didn’t want to disappoint their parents.
Here’s why it’s shit:
It’s not fair to expect a child, someone who isn’t even old enough to vote yet, to know what they want to be doing five, ten, or twenty years into the future – to know what they want to base their whole existence on.
I’ve spent my whole adult life wondering what my purpose is and I’ve never, ever figured that out. Most people are just not that lucky.
At age 33 I had a breakthrough moment after working several years in an industry that was useful and respectful, and climbing my way up the corporate ladder and into an executive pay packet. That breakthrough moment was being called “made redundant”. I was being forced out of my safe, well-paid but unhappy little world by big business.
As my soon-to-be-former employer wanted to keep their appearance of giving a shit about their employees alive, they arranged careers counseling and job seeking seminars for us in the hopes that we wouldn’t bomb the place in the 18 months between being told of the company changes and eventually being kicked out. It was a nice gesture and some made full use of it. I didn’t make enough use of it, however the one session I had with the counselor was extremely enlightening. One of the first questions she asked me and the way she responded to my answer had a resounding effect on my psyche.
“How old are you?”
“Goodness! You’re just a baby! You haven’t even had a chance to consider what you want to be when you grow up!”
I was like… “WHAT? I said I was 33, not 23!”
Like I said, all these years in Corporateria thinking that I was a failure because I hadn’t figured out my place in life had left me depressed and unhappy and completely unfulfilled. I was supposed to be a successful business woman. And I was! I was textbook. I’d worked my way up through the ranks, became a senior to assist running a large team of people, had an awesome pay packet, people looked up to me, I had responsibilities… all for what?
I wasn’t happy. I was fucking miserable. This was not where I wanted to be but I was doing it because that’s what was expected of me. I didn’t stay in uni to become a speech pathologist so this was the next best thing.
No kid, at the age of 16, 17 or 18, knows where their life is going to lead them unless they ABSOLUTELY WANT TO BE OR DO SOMETHING. No one should be forced onto a certain path because it’s the one their parents approve of, or a school adviser said that you were too dumb for anything else, or because money “for a good life” is important.
While the 12 months of unemployment which followed my redundancy absolutely sucked, it gave me the chance to consider what I wanted to do – and you know what? I think that opportunity to change my future to the way I want it to be has actually passed me by. But I am ok with that. I have a job I enjoy, it’s close to home, it’s simple routine. The money ain’t that great but I can budget and learn to either make do or deal with occasionally dipping into the red for things like holidays and or big purchases. I’m happy with picking at my life and choosing things to do along the way. It allows me to be brave occasionally.
At the grand old age of nearly-36, I have the bittersweet pleasure of hindsight. If I could have my time back again, I probably would have stayed in uni. But I would have also change courses.
If I could do it all again – I’d be digging up old/dead things for a living and loving it.