You’ve probably heard somewhere along the way that life is a journey? I imagine so, or some other analogy such as life being thought of as an adventure, etc. Whether you use the word, ‘journey’ or ‘adventure’, both suggest movement; heading from one place to another. So who is plotting the course in your travels? Is anyone behind the wheel or are you aimlessly floating along being sent off in numerous directions based on how the wind blows?
Some misconstrue this idea of Life being a journey meaning they aren’t really living unless they go out and physically travel the world. Whether you are a jet-setter visiting different time zones or countries on a regular basis or someone who has never been out of your town of birth, you’re still on that journey.
But I want to talk about things from a more personal perspective and at a different level. Forget for a moment the idea of physical travel to far away places, and let’s look at the regular day-to-day existence. In your daily life, who is calling the shots? For example why are you in the kind of work you are now, or looking for a certain kind of employment? Did you choose the job because it was expected of you by someone else? Did you make the consciousness choice on your own because it presented itself as something you wanted to do?
For many people, parents are one of our earliest guides. We take for granted they know what’s best for us, they steer us along helping us grow up. Some parents give their kids at some point the freedom to make their own choices and with that, the consequences of those decisions in order to prepare them for bigger decisions later in life. Other parents do everything for their kids and make all the decisions, which can ill-prepare those same kids as adults later on who haven’t developed those decision-making skills and the responsibility for the consequences that follow.
Conflict can happen when family members put pressure on a young adult to, “do something with your life”, and comments like, “you should have figured things out by now” made to a 21-year-old are really value judgement statements. These can be detrimental because they come across as negative assessments of the person. You haven’t figured out at 21 what you should be doing for the next 40 years therefore you are a failure; a disappointment, somehow faulty.
The same kind of feelings – not measuring up in some way – can occur when a person compares themselves to friends or other family members. “Why can’t you be more like Brenda? Brenda has a great job, she’s a real go-getter, and I hear she’s expecting!” Or the classic, “Why can’t you be more like your big brother?” Ouch. The only thing that might be worse is if you are being compared to a younger not older sibling.
In trying to please everyone you may please no one, and that can lead to poor self-esteem. If the people closest to us who know us best all see us as a disappointment and underperforming, then maybe it’s true; we are. That leap in thought is dangerous and wrong.
Your life is, well…YOUR life. I’ve always thought the role of parents is to help their children when they are young develop some life skills. In teaching their children as they grow with small decisions and consequences, exploring choices etc., they then can consider themselves to have done a good job of parenting if the children can then go out into the world and continue to take responsibility for their own choices. Certainly most parents want their children to succeed, but being successful can have many meanings.
So are you living your life or the life someone else wants for you? Are you in University or College because it was determined by someone else that you would pursue a certain career? If you enter school for one career but learn about others are you free to switch your major and go after a different degree leading to a different career or job? Would you parents approve if you announced you were going to be an Electrician instead of a Nurse?
There is in my opinion, too much pressure on young adults to have the next 30 or 40 years all mapped out. Your early years as an adult is a great time to experience many jobs, learn about work you didn’t even know existed, dream a little, try things; some that will work out and some that won’t. Even jobs that you thought you’d enjoy but find out you don’t are still valuable experiences. I really think any work you do be it paid or volunteer will at some point down your road pay off and give you a richer appreciation or understanding later in life, and that makes it useful.
Sure it’s good to talk with people: parents, guidance counsellors, career advisors, friends, teachers etc. All the advice and suggestions you’ll get could be helpful. In the end however, finding your own way – whether it’s by design or accident is still your way and it’s perfectly okay.
Trial and error, falling and getting back up, falling again, rising again, getting hired, maybe fired, rejected and accepted; that’s the journey. And if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.