We are taught from a young age to dream and to be who we want to be – we have always been expected to have a ready-made response to that infamous question:
“When I grow up, I want to be…”
That’s great when we’re little, but why when we grow up, are we no longer allowed to dream and have multiple job aspirations? When did that statement - which is meant to spark creativity and imagination - become a question that increases the pressure? A question that is asked over and over again in the hope that one day we have an answer that satisfies the questioner - and if we do have an answer, why is it never enough?
Now that we have grown up, we are expected to know our exact career paths and how to get there and to attend interviews over and over without feeling defeated, when we can’t even get a response to our applications, let alone land the job we can never get because we are a generation that ‘lacks experience’. We go from one family gathering to the next being quizzed again and again and we are expected to get full marks - but all that does is make it harder for us to grow, and easier for us to quit.
We leave primary school having to make a decision about which comprehensive education is best for our futures. We are thrown into an array of tests and exams to determine how clever we are so that we can be categorised into groups of intelligence. Before we know it, we’re not even fifteen and we are having to decide which GCSE subjects we have to take, so that we can secure good career prospects.
We pass. We drop out. We fail. We carry on.
By the time we get to sixth form or college we have to know what we want to be and exactly how to get there. Year thirteen arrives and we are thrown into what seems like a never-ending pressure boiler of mock interviews, job fairs, personal statements and UCAS applications, just so that we can try and get on to a University course, because ‘What other choice is there?’.
We are judged if we choose a creative degree. We work ourselves tirelessly to revise night, after night, after night. We battle our way through three gruelling years of hard work (if you’re lucky to have a course that short) at which point we need to know exactly what we’ll do after graduation and how we’re going to get there. Heaven forbid, one of us wants to move home to RELAX for a while. Rather than pay a thousand pounds a month for a shoebox whilst working every night in a club until 5am just to cover our gas and electric (and that’s if we pass the interview stage).
But what’s the point if we don’t have a high-end job on a top salary in Central London, right?
This is not an idyllic exhibition. This is the truth.
We are actors. We are dancers. We are activists. We are bartenders. We are ticket salespeople, and pharmacists, HR officers and writers. We are dreamers. We are podcast hosts. We are musicians. We are body piercers. We are unemployed. We are trying.
We are not defined by societal expectations.
We are revelling in the uncertainty - and so should you.