I spent years of my childhood wishing I was taller, wishing I was wiser, wishing I could just do things that I wasn’t “allowed” to do. I was so ready to be independent and to make my own decisions and now I’m “allowed.” I’m legal. I’m graduating and I couldn’t wish harder to be the six years old again.
What do you want to do when you grow up?
It’s a question that six year olds are asked and it’s a question 40 year olds still don’t know the answer to. Since birth we’re conditioned to think towards the future, to aspire to something. Don’t get me wrong, I love having ambitions and drive and I recognise them as enviable qualities but I think the pressure to “know” exactly what you want to be, where you’re going to be and how you’re going to get there is overwhelming and, frankly, just a complete mind-fuck. I like to think I’ve got my head screwed on right and that I’m working to achieve my goals but I’m completely and utterly intimidated by it all. I find myself questioning whether I’ve set the bar too high or whether it’s what society expects of me. I don’t really know what’s expected of me.
I don’t know whether it was my parent’s influence or their encouragement, but I’ve always known exactly what I wanted to do. Since opening my first Yamaha Keyboard, courtesy of Santa Clause, I was hooked. I wanted to perform and write my own music. I lyrically confessed my love to Daniel Radcliffe and melodically explored what it meant to be tone-deaf, but I worked at it and I just adore it. My parents never made me believe that I couldn’t do it.
It all begins in education where you’re encouraged to draw pictures of what you want to be. My friends drew firetrucks and astronauts, some drew farmers (I’m from Wales) and police men, and there were doctors, vets, singers, dancers, actors… The list is endless. Our imaginations were limitless and we believed that we could be whatever we wanted.
Then we arrive at GCSE’s, sixteen years of age, face plagued with spots and an unfortunate haircut that has since been removed from my Facebook history, and you have to limit the subjects you study. It’s the first time in your life that you take control over your education. But this issue is, things like music and music technology and drama often clashed in the choices column, so you’re already limited with what you’re allowed to chose, the more “Academic” subjects being perfectly accessible. You’re forced to make the “right” decision.
And then A-Levels, when you really have to commit, and you chose one to three subjects of your choice, that then lead to higher education, so naturally, subjects must be relevant to the courses you hope to study at degree level. And I was so lucky because I always knew I just wanted to perform. There’s a specific route we need to follow, and often we’re blindly led through education expected to just somehow work out the right decision.
Throughout our childhood we are graded. We’re given instruction sheets and guidelines to help us achieve the best results possible and we’re marked, put in sets dependent on our ability and at the end of our test or project, we’re given a gold shiny star as gratification. You have done well.
Beyond education, you begin to make life choices and there is no guideline, no step by step guide, nor a teacher at hand to evaluate your progress. In the great words of Beyonce, it’s me myself and I. And then how do you measure success? There’s no gold star at the end of your day. The education system and society’s expectations have us believing that we have to be successful on paper, almost as th
ough we’re never allowed to achieve less that 100% in what we do. Or if we do, we’re naturally ranked, put into groups of people at your academic level. As we get older, we don’t believe in our own desires anymore, but things like gas, electricity, bills, travel, money all take over our lives and that temp bar job you got to raise money for you girls holiday, pays for your pension because you never left. (Ok - I’m getting a bit too deep and depressing but why have we become so “realistic” in our beliefs? What happened to the excitement to be an explorer?)
People have always asked me, what’s your back-up plan, your plan B? And I always tell them that I don’t have one. I just don’t believe in them. If a part of me believes in plan B, then a part of me has already given up on plan A.
I want the same youthful enthusiasm as you see in primary school children. Why, as we get older, do we begin to lose faith in what we can achieve? Is it because we’re not praised in the same way outside of education? Is it because we begin to notice “real-world” competition, or is it because it’s all just overwhelming and you just don’t know what to do anymore?
My mum tells me that some of the interesting people she knows are the ones who still don’t know what they want to do. And for those of you who do know, why give up now? We’ve worked so hard to get to where we are and we can be so much more, giving up would be such a shame. I know it’s easier said than done, but I honestly think that if I don’t believe that I can make it (in what ever way you personally measure success) then who’s going to believe in me?