Changing Direction

The emphasis placed on decision-making is present almost immediately after a child’s first words. Whether that be the stubborn indignance toward a food or the eager impatience in respect to a new activity, once it is born it only dies with the individual.

Throughout childhood, choices that offer themselves quite arguably retain little consequence. Continuously, a child is saved from a bad choice due to their naivety in life — and quite rightly so. A helping hand, sound advice and a gentle push allows the child to learn right from wrong. Development is therefore encouraged, stimulating healthy growth and a preparedness for later years. It isn’t until around the age of 13 that choices seem compelling.

Without warning, an individual reaching pubescency is expected to take upon themselves the task of identifying the strengths and interests that will form their adult career. Workshops, online questionnaires and destination interviews smother the pupils’ lives. This is coupled with the obtrusively opinionated parents and the quick-to-critique teachers. Although this may not be the case for all, the pupil still has an imminent responsibility to undertake subjects that will permit them the utmost of success in a career that most haven’t even considered. Subjects are hastily picked from a process of necessity, guidance and pure blindness. For the next disgracefully rapid few years, the importance of attaining outstanding grades is reinforced through inducing terror by incessantly reminding pupils that these grades will determine their entire life. Intermittent reports are distributed to parents, detailing the progress of their child through -quite frankly- shameful numbering. Replacing the informative and comforting words of primary school teachers comes the informality and dehumanisation of a number and letter per subject: your effort and progress within class and your projected end-of-school grade. The pupil is left reeling, bewildered that their friends are fast becoming their competition: a lifetime away from the carelessness of ‘tag’ in the playground.

School has finished. Results day looms over the nerve-beaten pupil like a waking nightmare. After all, it has become a staple fact that these results are the most important results a person can ever receive. That is until a year later when the anxiety-ridden student awaits college results.

Super. The grades are sufficient enough for college. For the second time, a student embarks upon a period where decisions have been made that are apparently so vital to their future, if they fail or have committed to a poor choice, future progression practically walks out the door. The student is now considered an adult. The transition between school and college seems to have an unwritten rule that a child will mature into an all-knowing, self-aware, assertive and motivated adult in two months. From the first week, University is already an essential part of everyday conversation. The handful of subjects a student has arduously selected is a relentless declaration of the narrowing opportunities available to them — because of their own decisions. Torment may reside within the student, initiating a sting of regret and a stab of doubt. As swift as the thoughts came, these are hurriedly pushed aside due to complete lack of time. The subsequent 18 months are perpetually plagued by degree searching, revising, institutional expectation, Open Days, Interviews, and applications. Once a University choice has been finalised, the student is convinced that a balance has been struck. They have opted for a subject they love, are successful in, have support in and one which will allow an eventuality to rise into employment thereafter. Career prospects look encouraging and the salary is impressive. Offers come in and pride with pure elation carries the student forward.

College is over and reality hits harder than being dumped on Valentine’s Day. You’ve whittled down a plethora of subjects that have provided a safety net for about 13 years. You’re left with one. Everything has led to this very moment in time. Results day is yet to come and a sense of the unknown creeps in like a suffocating fog. Teachers have warned of the severity of making dissatisfactory choices at this point. The final subject of study will make or break your life successes.

Doubt.

Have you made the right decision?

Have you chosen the right direction for you?


In year 9, at the age of 13, I committed myself to achieving an equivalent of 15 GCSE’s. Succeeding an unforeseen relocation, I attended a new school in year 11, where I was nonempathically told that I must retake the entirety of my GCSE’s as they were of a different exam board than their own. I completed 9 GCSE’s in 9 months, leaving with six A’s, one B and two C’s: A fortuitous performance.

I might add, to this day, not one single individual has inquired about my grades.

College enabled me to study Drama and Theatre Studies, Psychology, Geography and English Literature with the dreadful inclusion of the Extended Project Qualification. Currently, I find myself drifting: college is over, results day is approaching and University is a few lie-ins away. The summer has been the longest yet.

Cue the premise.


It is no huge secret that life is brutally unforgiving in its haste to be over with. Sounding inherently negative, this is simply a common observation. Therefore, humanity attempts to compact an ambitious number of goals before our own number is up. Even though given with such admirable regard — it is a societal ideal and should be nothing more.

Regrettably, for our modern day lives, the opportunities truly are endless but this comes with a cost. Education is suffering. Decisions are rushed without the complex knowledge required of a subject to concisely conclude why that is the most appropriate direction. Practicality and reality are a dimension apart from memory tests and classrooms.

I speak as a student among many who all feel the same. We cannot change time. We cannot dream of stopping it or slowing it down but what we can change is the path through time. Too much is asked of us too quickly. Pressure is applied worse than a bandage to an amputee. The race for international recognition as a leading country for education is, in theory, brilliant. The rate at which students are being driven into the ground through uneducated decisions is succeeding faster. With student fees at an all-time high, where is our motivation? We only do it because we have to. The pressure and the expectation is ever-present. Consequently, poor decisions are repeatedly made. We’re told a degree is the key to career success. Are we even sure of our career choice yet? Look at how many graduates leave unemployed, scurrying the streets for the last few crumbs of work. Students need the freedom to realise, wholeheartedly, that the direction they are taking is one that will truly give them reward. We are strangled by revision, cut by the stress and beaten by the exams, distracting us magnificently from what matters most: the happiness, good health and reward that we would naturally receive by a life well lived — and well chosen.

I have lived my entire life confident that I would be an actor. It has been a part of my growth and development as much as fruit and vegetables. Neglected time of the past few weeks have caused an unwelcome reaction. I quickly realised I was blinded by my own pressure, strangled by my optimistic dreams and cut from the disappointing reality of the future. However, most of all, I was beaten by my own lack of confidence.

The sensation of being without a direction is one I’d happily live without. I wish those around me did not tolerate my foolishness and naivety toward my future while I was consumed by the reckless decision making. It was only now that I faced what the life of an actor would be like — and it was terrifying. It is worth mentioning that at our age of 18 years, we appreciate that our lives will not be dominated by all of the decisions we make now but that is the root of the problem. It is what we are taught to believe.

Changing the direction of my life at this point is indescribable. This cannot be the only change. Thousands of students will continue, misguided, into their futures unless the structure of education is altered. Our modern lives are too demanding and stressful already to endure a career.

We are the future after all.

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Inordinately analysing every waking moment. Anxiety enlivens the past, inundates the present and obscures the future. How can we ever operationalise life?