This month Anisha discusses the issues that arise once we leave the structure of school and find ourselves with more 'free' time on our hands. It is important to not get overwhelmed by what others are doing and trust in our own decisions.
Since the very start of our journey through the education system, many of our choices have been influenced under strong guidance. Teachers advise you on available choices, school provides a schedule to dictate your day-to-day life and even tells you when to take days off. But life isn't always like that. Floating between the structured spaces of school or work can open doors to an overwhelming amount of freedom and time.
Up until you are sixteen, the structure of how we spend our time is more or less dictated by institutions outside of our control. We wake up, hunt around in the dark for clean socks, go to school, cry over maths homework and do it all again the next day. The education system teaches us to narrow things down, from eliminating subjects off the radar in GCSEs, to choosing three or four in college, and then potentially picking just one for Uni.
Then, after those two years, the world opens up once again to much possibility. Go to university? Get a degree apprenticeship? Leave academia behind you? Get stuck into a job? Take a gap year? All of a sudden the road forks into a million options, and suddenly you´re dreaming of a future drinking cocktails in Costa Rica instead of taking a place doing Bio-Med at Leicester. What I want to stress is that there truly is no right way of doing things. After being handheld through the majority of our teenage years, it often feels like there is a certain route we should be following, or that other people have simply chosen better.
Doubting the path you’re on is a normal process of life, and can be healthy too. It aids a sort of self-reflection which can enact positive changes. However, it also leads so easily to feelings of dissatisfaction, restlessness or even lower self-esteem. Even when you still are in a fixed system, whether that be schooling or a job, moments can often arise where we feel frustrated with ourselves or situation. We feel that whatever we’re occupying our time with, at that moment, just isn’t enough.
Especially in our age of social media, the culture of comparing ourselves and lives to others is always an undercurrent. Seeing the highlights of lives, loves and pink lilos, when you're on the humble commute to classes can so easily lead you into bitterly picking apart your own lifestyle.
The Danish philosopher Kierkegaard wrote on The Concept of Anxiety and related it to a dizziness with all the choices we are faced with making. We don’t get a detailed manual guide on how to go about our lives, so being confronted with the wilderness of unfamiliarity and spirals of comparison with your peers is a perfectly natural thing. It’s important, then, to know that nobody has life absolutely right. Whilst we have the desire to change things that we do, from small habits to the occasional ‘drop out of uni and become a stunt artist’ impulse, learning to trust where you are right now allows for a little more peace of mind. Whilst we can so easily lurch into our ‘restless monkey mind’ selves, we should all learn to have a little more confidence in our decisions. This tale of finding what works for you, and exploring unknown roads is an anthem sung so gloriously in High School Musical (and yes, it has been on repeat since I started writing this blog)... ‘I gotta go my own way’.
So, learn to have a little faith in your own way of life, confidence that there is no one ´singular´ way of doing things. Learn not only to find your own path, but realise that you can construct it entirely yourself.
Read of the Month
In light of the rapidly escalating atrocities of the Israel Palestine conflict, I would encourage reading articles to gain more awareness and knowledge of the situation, particularly from non-Western sources such as Al Jazeera news or Palestinian reporters on social media.
Anisha Minocha is studying English and Spanish at the University of St Andrews, currently living in Andalucía. She is a writer and poet whose work has been showcased in winning competitions, readings and anthologies. She co-edits SINK Magazine, which gives a platform to Northern creatives, and founded the "Roots"" project with Friends of the Earth that looks at the intersections between South Asian identity and ecology. Twitter: @anisha_jaya
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