On the path of life

This post is an answer to the prompt “You’ve been asked to speak at your high school alma marter—about the path of life (whoa). Draft the speech.

The path of life is defined by two constants—change and uncertainty. You may have it all figured out in your mind but things will most likely go a different way, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As your life path twists and turns, you will too. With age and experience, ideas change, views change, situations change, means change, and longstanding dreams can also change.

When I was 13, I wanted to grow up to be an astronaut. By the time I was 16, I didn’t want to anymore. But you’ll say that’s ok, the resolutions we make as little children and teenagers almost always change, and I agree with you.

But then again, when I was 18, I wanted to be married by the time I was 24, I thought anything beyond that would be too late. I’m 25 and single now and I can’t imagine wanting to be married for a few more years. But who knows, maybe in a few years I’ll change again.

Life changed me, the decisions I made changed me, the experiences I had changed me, and quite importantly, the people I surrounded myself with changed me.

I currently work in writing and marketing. For almost four years now I have tried to decide between the two disciplines, and failed at picking just one. If you absolutely forced me to choose, I am still uncertain about which one I’d choose.

I realised that things started becoming more and more uncertain after I left school. Uncertainty was everywhere—which college I’d get into, which one I’d choose, what jobs I would apply for, so on and so forth.

I’m sure by now you get the gist of what I’m trying to say, especially because I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times before. And even though this might just be a reiteration, it doesn’t make it any less real or true.

So, what I’m saying is, you never know where the path of life will take you. If you are the type of person who likes to have a plan, go ahead and make one, but allow for inconsistances when it comes to implementation. This path will take you to some beautiful places and some horrible ones, some happy phases and some lonely ones, but know that it might change at any moment. I’m not going to end by asking you to enjoy the journey, because a lot of times it will be far from enjoyable, but I am asking you to remember that things change and when you feel uncertain, lost, and down and out the most, try to fret a little less because you could be next in line for change.

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On figuring out what to do in life [unsolved]

I woke up this morning with a career plan. I’ve always wanted to study more, and recently read that the UK government was proposing new visa rules that would allow international students a good chance at work after a PhD. So, I was like—great, awesome, that settles it then! I’d started dreaming of my perfect student apartment in New Town, Edinburgh that I would share with a cool American undergrad and a Scottish postgrad. I thought I’d be the toast of the “consumption culture research” world, with my radicle papers on how embracing post-post modern consumption might just be the way ahead. And I’d imagined all the fancy dinner parties I’d be attending at my supervisor’s house, where apart from him and his lovely wife, I would meet other “cool” intellectuals like myself (ahem).

And then I read this article: The disposable academic which basically tells me that pursuing a PhD would be a wasted endeavour as there is more supply than demand in the market. The fact that this was posted by an acquaintance who is currently pursuing a PhD in Economics (a subject with far more potential than mine) added to my already vast disappointment.

So, what now? What am I supposed to do? There’s a little voice in my head that tells me I should go for it regardless of this one article. But I know this isn’t the only one, there are several out there, all saying the same thing. And this voice tells me “You’ll be better than the best! You’ll be the exception to the rule”, but I know that isn’t true. A very wise movie, and my experience with life, taught me that I am, in 99.9% of the cases, definitely the rule.

Image by Rijama

The thing is, it’s very difficult—this thing called “life”. One day you’re dreaming about bumping into Paolo Nutini on the streets of Edinburgh after nailing a class on Erik Erikson’s theory of stages of development, and the next you realise that not just the Paolo part, but all of that dream might not be possible. So then you start running through your back up plans—
I want to be a writer—No, there are too many writers out there who are far better than you.
I want to be a writer who finds a voice with which a niche audience can connect—No, there are already enough voices out there.
I want to be a travel writer—Have you seen twitter? Every third person there is a travel writer.
I want to become a musician—Get real, you’re not 12 anymore.
I want to become a singer in a jazz band—Get real, you can barely hold a tune.
I want to be a writer—It’s like you’re not even listening anymore!

So, what then? What am I supposed to do? They tell you you’re supposed to figure out what you can offer that is different from everyone else and then work with that. But, come on, when was the last time someone offered something completely different, anyway?

So, I circle back. I think that’s what you should do at times like these (note the Foo reference there), circle back to where you started and begin eliminating dead-ends that come disguised as options. Do your research, talk to people, and also try your hand at other things that are on your list of possibilities (perhaps try that writing thing again? write a blog post about your dilemma, maybe?). If you’re lucky,  and I hope you are, and if you work for something, or a few things, or even many things, hopefully one of those things, if not some or all of them, will work out.