When I was a kid, there were limitless possibilities for my future. I could be pretty much anything I could think of: a doctor, a pilot, a teacher, writer, philosopher, artist, or even an astronaut. It was almost like a fairytale, and I looked forward to being a “grown up” with all the wild enthusiasm that my 6-year-old imagination could muster.
But as I got older and older, I was told, “you would have to be a genius” to be an astronaut, or that I would have to get a ridiculously high UAI to be a doctor, or a vet. I would have to work really hard, or would have to be “that” type of person (that I clearly wasn’t, that most people were not). I would have to study for at least 5 years. I would have to do internships after that and even then, I would still find it hard to get a job. In fact- I might not.
I’m sure if I had really wanted to be a doctor, or a lawyer, I certainly could have, but what bothered me were the attitudes of all the people around me- even teachers, who I had looked to for support. Sure, we all need some tough love every now and then, but pessimism was always framed as realism, and slowly my dreams began to fade as everyone from my own family, to my friends’ neighbours’ grandmother were telling me that the possible was, in fact, impossible.
I remember a distinct moment when the fairytale ended quite abruptly. In high school, our Year Coordinator was giving a speech at assembly. He urged us to be “realistic”, that, even though we may have hopes and dreams, we needed to look at which career was going to “work in our favor”, rather than choosing to do only what we loved doing. I remember hearing that talk and feeling that, although it was a little sad, and disheartening, that he was right. Now, looking back, I think there couldn’t be anything further from the truth.
A girl who went to my high school left school at the end of year 10 and told everyone she was going to be a WWF wrestler. A few people thought she was crazy, and everyone else, like me, thought she was joking. She is now a professional female wrestler in televised matches- that is actually how she makes her living, and she is doing what she loves.
After school and university, some of my friends had it easy getting graduate jobs, but other friends were taking months or even years to get jobs in various industries; engineering, journalism, music, even teaching. The worst part was, some of these friends were truly doing what they loved, whereas others were just doing what they had thought was the “safe” route, and, now, even though they finally have those jobs they still aren’t happy. We are ingrained from such a young age to think that we need to get a good, reputable, “safe” job, preferably in an office, like cogs in a wheel.
I don’t quite know when it became the norm to want to choose the “safe road.” But it is not only that we choose this path for ourselves, we sometimes choose it for others, too. People still do it to me today. They start with a positive, but then the negatives begin; “Oh, you want to live overseas? That’s amazing! But wait, how much money will you have? Have you started saving? Won’t you miss your family? Don’t you have a dog? Do you have any idea what the job climate is like over there? Do you have contacts there? Shouldn’t you be thinking about buying a house soon?” The truth is, I don’t want to know the answers to all these questions.
I’m not sure whether it comes from something more malicious like jealousy, or simply people’s insecurities about themselves and their lack of belief in each other. Either way, I’m not sure why I ever learned to listen.
If you are fully determined to do something that you are passionate about and you put everything into it, chances are you are more likely to succeed in that than you are putting only half your heart into a “safe” job that you hate. Yes, you might fail. You might make less money. You might get over it. You might even be terrible at it. But you might also have a chance at being the happiest and most fulfilled you have ever been in your whole life. Isn’t it worth the risk?
I feel like some people today are so afraid. Afraid of change, of the unknown. Of life. Surely we can just embrace the unknown and NOT have a plan. To not be scared to not know what is coming next. Surely we can just be positive, and confident in our own already-established skills, connections and qualifications and our own strength of character? No matter how hard you plan, life can still be so unpredictable. Even the best-laid plans can fail. And often the ones who are the most courageous and who choose the strangest paths are the ones who are the most successful.
I was talking to a friend recently, plagued with indecision about my own career and job prospects. He said to me: “It’s actually really simple. It’s not rocket science. Just do what makes you happy”. At the time, I was so frustrated. “What a stupid, simple piece of advice”, I thought, thinking it was just a lazy response to my emotionally wrought text messages. But later on, I was thinking about it, and it really is that simple. Yes, there may be challenges with just doing what makes us happy, but if we really want something we should tear down walls to make it happen, and everything else, with a little nudge, should fall into place, or if not, can be solved along the way.
Do it now, rather than being trapped in an office with no natural sunlight, eight hours a day, for the next five years, or biding time until you have the money, or until after your holiday, or after the deposit on your new house. Why should any of us wait any longer? We don’t always have forever.
I’m not saying you should quit your job and become a wrestler.
But just know that if you wanted to, you probably could.