Twenty and Terrified

The last time I checked, I was kicking back in a classroom, (not working particularly hard in comparison to life now), age fifteen-ish, looking at a computer screen that was telling me: ‘when you grow up, your skills suggest you should be A) a journalist B) a Civil Servant or C) a dog-walker. To be quite honest, the dog-walker did, and still does, appeal to me greatly. Yet I’ve always been told ‘you should make something of yourself Katie, go and do something with your life.’ Not only is this very demoralising towards the relentless work of dog-walkers (whom we shall forever need, might I add!), but it’s also really hard to understand. What do people mean by ‘go and do something with your life?’ If they mean, follow a typical academic route and stay on at school, take three soul-destroying A-Levels, pick a Degree you love at a University that feels like home and read and write until your hearts content, then here I am. But what next? once the stepping-stones provided by our truly wonderful welfare state, run out, what then? This is the position that I am fast approaching. I’m doing all I can to dig my heels into the ground in trying to halt this inevitable process, but once I get that certificate that says ‘Bachelor of the Arts in History, First Class Degree Honours’ (I’m praying), that’s it. I’m cast out in to the big wide world, cut off from the comfort blanket of further education and left to fend for myself. I’ve never been more terrified.

However, there is a dark comfort in the fact that I know I am not alone. I’m pretty sure how I’m feeling is fairly standard for any twenty year old who is thinking about their future, but this doesn’t make it ‘ok’. I find the pressure that society, parents (thankfully not mine) and employers place on young people to have decided their future at twenty years old, mad. I know the world is ever changing and that today we live in a totally different world to those of our parents generation in terms of employment, but I can guarantee that the man who stood and lectured me on ‘careers and employability’ two weeks ago, had absolutely no idea at age twenty, that he himself would end up being an adviser to graduates. And this is what frustrates me… I spend at least two hours of my day, worrying, thinking and trying to plan a life past graduation, because ‘society’ tells me that I’ve got myself into £30,000 worth of debt, and so now is the time to pick a career path and stick to it, and if I haven’t got this sorted by the time I get that piece of paper, I’ve failed.

Should there be so much pressure on young people to decide their futures at age twenty? I understand that this decision has to come at some point, else I could be forty and still trying to ‘figure it out.’ Luckily for me, I know I would like a future in some sort of journalism and I sort-of know what I need to do in order to get there, but I know other people my age haven’t reached the same stage in the decision process, and I can’t imagine how they must be feeling. Nevertheless, the fear of failure is ripe amongst my age-group, and I think it’s time people in general stopped putting so much pressure on young people.

 

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