Lately, it’s the only question adults ask me – those properly grown-up adults, the ones who actually know things and aren’t just able to legally say they’re a grown up when it suits them, namely at the bar.
“What do you want to do when you graduate?”
I shrug it off, nervous laughter, quip about nothing.
But the dread and the panic begins to gnaw at my gut -wait, stop.
I know it’s just a filler question, polite conversation, small talk – damned small talk. But the anxiety is real because every website and every Tweet from those-in-the-know screams that everything we’ve been told to do since we were old enough to etch these lessons into our self-esteem is not enough.
You reach high school: they make you choose GCSEs – “What are you going to be when you’re older?”
After that, you choose A Levels – “What are you going to be when you’re older?”
Then you choose your degree – “What are you going to be when you’re older – whatever it is you’ll need a degree, an undergrad-masters-PHD-diploma-from-God in this market.”
Your life has been education, education, education because that is what you’ve been told you need to do but the minute you see a light at the end of the tunnel they switch, change their tune – “education is not enough!” they smirk – you must do more, much more, things you’ve never even dreamt were possible or necessary. Blog, write, act, run, audition, apply, apply again, shout into the void until someone takes notice.
But never breathe. Function. Live.
I’m starting to resent all those people who asked me what I want to be when I grow up when I was 4 years old.
Because life is not a linear A to B, it is not join the dots, and reach a destination, just get there and you can be satisfied, successful, happy.
Study because you want to study. Do it well. Do it happily.
Life is more than a well-paid job; do what you love, until you don’t love it and then find the next thing. Life is ups and downs and wibbly-wobbly all over the place.
And when they ask what you’re doing with your life, where you’re going, what you’re aiming for, be honest.
“What do you want to be when you’re older?”
Happy. That’s my answer. Happy.