For essentially the first two decades of our lives, we are controlled.
Every thought we have, every meal we eat, every choice we make, hell, every time that we use the bathroom was closely monitored by the adults in our lives. We are told to be independent and strive for greatness, but in the same breath we are reminded that if we break any of the thousands of norms that society has established for us, we fail at life. Everyone from our parents to our peers to our teachers are molding us into this codependent human being that feels trepidation before making any type of decision alone. And if we try to break free and make decisions for ourselves that aren’t traditional, we are immediately berated and forced back into the confines of society.
And we don’t complain, because the confines are the only thing that we know.
Until we reach the magic age of eighteen and everything suddenly transforms into a menacing world of self-sufficiency and major life-changing decisions. It is like as soon as you finish your high school degree, everyone thinks that you should automatically have life completely figured out. You are expected to know which college you want to go to, what major you will have, what career you will do for the rest of your life, where you’re going to live, what person you’re going to marry, how many kids you’ll want, if you will live in the suburbs or in the country, and how to file taxes when just a few months ago your school would not even trust you to go to the bathroom by yourself. How does society not see a flaw in this?
We are forced into being codependent, mindless beings for most of our lives and then the next day we are expected to make some of the biggest decisions that we will ever make. And if you express that you are confused or scared, you get berated because “You’re an adult now. You should just know.”
But how can we know?
It’s not like our high school systems devote that much time to helping students actually preparing for the real world. We weren’t given courses like “Intro to Tax Forms for Dummies” or “How to Not Drown in Student Debt.” Instead, we spent years of our lives memorizing information to regurgitate back onto the standardized tests that (SPOILER ALERT) actually demonstrate very little of the actual knowledge that we hold and will never be applicable to life outside of the classroom.
And I’m not saying that we should attack teachers for how horribly underprepared we are for life. The teachers want to teach us valuable information and wish that they could break away from the rigid goals of the standardized tests. The problem is not the teachers. It’s the people who think that distinguished test scores are more important than fostering young minds to find passions and gain knowledge that will actually make them grow as a person. It’s the people who get angry at students when they try to express individuality and then later on get upset when the same student tells them that they can’t decide what they’re passionate about.
Students are being dehumanized into walking test scores, and not only is it damaging to our minds. But it sets us so far behind when the real world shoves it’s unrelenting presence in our faces. Students that excelled in school find themselves struggling when success is no longer a game of having a stellar memory. The students who fell behind are entering the world discouraged because they’ve spent their whole life hearing that they are simply just not good enough.
When you are already broken down mentally, it is hard to make massive decisions for yourself. And it is even worse to confess to others that you don’t know what you will ever be able to do with your life because you don’t want to fail at being an adult before you have even got started.
But, there’s a bright side to this. If you’re a young adult finding yourself in a similar position to the one that I’m describing, know that you’re not alone. Seriously.
Nobody has a clue about what to do with their lives.
The girl from your high school who has always been so sure about being an Engineer is probably having a mental breakdown and deciding to be an artist instead. The boy who you always just knew would become a lawyer is probably talking on the phone with his mother right now telling her that he wants to go into journalism instead. And your best friend that is currently a biology major? Be sure to motivate her when she starts crying and tells you that she definitely cannot complete the Gen Eds, let alone actually get a degree to be a doctor. We are all going to change our minds at least a million times about the direction that our lives will go. And when we think we have it figured out, it’ll probably change again because life is funny like that.
I know that this sucks right now. That the construction of the school system and society itself seriously needs to be fixed and that it can be seriously discouraging to feel like you can’t answer any of the thousands of questions being hurled your way. But just know that you are not alone in feeling about the world’s biggest idiot and that everyone is going to mess up. Welcome to the real world.
Let’s mess everything up together.