Every week for years now I’ve met with one group of kids or another to learn about drama. These sessions start just after school, and they’re any age from twelve upwards. These young people are bright, ambitious, and often incredibly funny. They share stories before we get down to the workshop proper. They wearily list off the amount of assignments that are due, count off the number of the extra-curricula activities that each have a public outcome, and they wander and how they’ll ever get through the stress of it all. When you teach a kid for a couple of years, you see the stress get more and more defined. They get thinner, they show up to class less. They worry. The stakes only get higher as they get closer to adulthood. One wrong move could ostensibly jeopardise their entire future.
Lucky, the work-until-you-burn-out model of business and the worry-about-outcomes-constantly methodology stop when you turn eighteen and graduate high school.
At some point you’ve got to stop reaching for other people’s goal posts. At some point you’ve got to turn to yourself and ask, ‘hang on, what do I want to do?’ You should give your response to this question more weight than anybody else’s opinion: your parents, your teachers, your friends, your mentors. You are the best authority on you. Even if you’re going to go make a mistake or put yourself in danger, you might just need to do that to learn something valuable, or to grow into the version of yourself that you want to be.
When I was in year twelve, I walked into my career counsellors office. She drew a line through my first two preferences for studying at university: arts, and sweetly suggested I apply myself to areas that will ensure a more stable living. It seems comical that at the highest levels of education we’re contradicting a message that we’re taught from kindergarten: the things that you have don’t make you happy. The money that you earn isn’t a reflection of who you are. It’s a powerful illusion to think otherwise, and one that can leave you bereft of joy, meaning, and growth.
Do it. Today.
(Yep, this is a sign.)