I have made what feels like a ridiculous number of mistakes in the past 5 years or so. But the main reason they feel like such big mistakes is because I can look at them from a more experienced point of view.
I often look back on the decisions that have led me to where I am. Namely the choices I made in school: A Levels, University, degree choice etc. If I went back, knowing everything I know now, I would have done things entirely differently. I’m talking a complete 180.
I would have taken slightly different A Levels. I would have pursued a different degree – or perhaps not gone to university at all.
And just those two decisions would have a whole host of effects. I’d be further down a career path (or closer to one) than I am now. I could be in an entirely different living situation – maybe I wouldn’t even be near home.
There are lots of days where I sit thinking about everything I did wrong, and it feels completely overwhelming. I get trapped in my head, worrying that I’ve jeopardised my future and career at the feeble age of 21. But I have to remember the good things. Namely how much I’ve grown as a person, the amazing people I’ve met, and the experiences I’ve had that have shaped not only who I am, but what I want to do and be.
I get angry at the pressure that was put on myself, and is put on young people to decide their futures straight away. I was supposed to know what I wanted to do at the age of 16, so that I could choose the right A Levels to allow me onto a relevant degree or apprenticeship. Sixteen is far too young to be expected to make such decisions. I can barely picture what my life will be like next year, never mind five or ten years in the future!
And the worst thing? That pressure is put on the most vulnerable, volatile people. At sixteen, your body and mind is only just starting to change. I certainly didn’t settle into myself until 19 at the earliest – and I’m definitely still settling. It’s a difficult time because in some ways you’re treated like a child, but in others you’re expected to have your entire life mapped out. It isn’t fair, and it’s not healthy.
I wish I’d had someone to tell me that there is no rush. I wish someone would have shown how taking a gap year is absolutely fine (and in my case, would probably have been a good idea). I wish slowing down and not knowing what you want to do was normalised, and that the choices you make at sixteen didn’t have such an affect on your future.
If 16-year-olds are not allowed to vote, or get tattoos, or make any other kind of permanent decision – why are they expected to make such huge decisions in terms of their careers?
Hindsight is a devilish thing. It taunts me and tells me that I’ve made a mess of everything. I am constantly having to remind myself that there is no rush. I can get where I want to be. It won’t happen immediately and that’s okay. I just wish my worrier-brain would take it on board.
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