13 Dec 2017

My dreams don't have to scare me, fuck off

Look at my wanky quote

I went to an event at The Guardian about Generation Z. They’d carried out a survey with young people and shared the results, and then held a panel with some of those young people. The four of them were either at university or had just graduated, and I asked them: 

“I’m 24 and firmly in the middle of my quarter-life crisis *cue laughter from the room - thank you for rubbing my ego, i will live off this for at least three hours*. We’ve spoken a lot about education and careers this morning… I was just wondering if you had any other priorities and where they are on your list?”

Straight in at the deep end, no messing. 

Apart from one who briefly mentioned having a family would be important to her, the consensus was: Nope, career is pretty much everything, it’s what I focus on. 

It made me quite sad, and I'm not sure if I’m qualified to feel sad.

I’ve been wanting to write a blog post on this topic for months and months, but I’ve never quite known what to say, and how to talk about this notion of success and crises and priorities. My own views have been challenged and I’m always having new experiences which have made me second guess myself. I’ve also been working with Helen Williams, the ‘no bullshit’ life coach recently on her new website, and her coaching practises have also caused me to consider things differently. 

(You can read my work for Helen on having a quarter-life crisis here, here, and here.)

But I think, in all this, I’ve been proving my overall point that life is complicated and processes aren’t linear and shit happens and you’re constantly learning. 

I was sad about these young people’s priorities because I saw my younger self in them. Everything I did had to enhance my career. I was disgustingly successful as a teenager, both academically and professionally, and now joke about peaking at 18. Though I’m not really joking, am I. A lot of my mental health issues have come from overachieving on an intense scale, and then things going downhill (or so I thought) as soon as the fire went out after my London 2012 Olympic Torchbearer run. 

For full disclosure, I am fully aware that I sound like a privileged, whiny, white millennial arsehole. Don't roll your eyes too hard, you'll strain them.

I expected things to be breezy for me. I was clearly capable of so much. I had an ego the size of Jupiter and an overwhelming amount of self-confidence and determination. I was going to go to uni, but I didn’t really need it, and then I was going to publish books and have my own columns and go on panel shows and shit. I was a prodigy. I was wise and witty and things just fell into place for me. But… that didn’t happen. Shit happened. Shit has continued to happen. And the more that shit happened, the more I hated myself for doing my past self a disservice. 

Are you keeping up? 

I put so much pressure on myself. I wanted continued success, and do you know what didn’t help? Watching other young women doing fucking awesome things. I know. It’s terrible. I hated other young women for succeeding, and then I hated myself for being a ‘bad feminist’ and the cycle continued.

Of course, while I sat in my dressing gown scrolling through my phone and moping at all these people doing great things and thinking WHY DIDN’T I HAVE THREE BOOKS OUT BY NOW AND CONSTANT TV INTERVIEWS AND MY EXPERTISE CALLED UPON, I had a job writing content for a charity supporting young people, a sweet freelancing gig doing similar, a blog still running for the eighth year, a London Marathon medal (have I mentioned), a rented flat for my long-term boyfriend and me, well-budgeted finances, and improved mental health. 

But none of those things mattered, because I wasn’t improving enough. I wasn’t succeeding enough. I wasn’t surprising people enough. I wasn't achieving enough. In reality, I couldn't ever be happy, because I could never do or be enough. I would always want more. I would never feel happy and satisfied. 

There’s a societal mindset of: settling is bad. You should never settle. You should succeed time and time again. You should have goals. You should have BIG goals. Completed a goal? QUICK, PICK ANOTHER ONE. A BIGGER ONE. Oh boy, your goals should be scary and if they aren’t, WHAT’S THE POINT? DREAM BIG. YOU CAN DO ANYTHING. STICK IT TO THE MAN. PUSH YOURSELF. TAKE RISKS. REACH FOR THE MOON AND IF YOU DON’T GET THERE AT LEAST YOU’LL be utterly exhausted and burnt out and completely unaligned with what matters in life. And who decides that? You. Only you.

It’s ok to settle. It’s ok to enjoy a job and want to stay in that job. It’s ok to not want to get to the top of the career ladder, or have a career at all. It’s ok to have a job. It’s ok to feel content with what you have and not want more. It’s ok to not be the very best at what you do! It’s ok to not win. It’s ok to be in the same place for a long time. It’s ok to have a longterm partner and not want experience other relationships. It’s ok to rent. It’s ok to spend your money on travel (or pizza) instead of a house deposit. It’s ok to want kids. It’s ok to not want kids. It’s ok to care more about a hobby than your job. It’s ok to just be ok with your lot. It’s ALSO ok to have big dreams and push yourself and take risks, IF that’s what makes you happy and where you get your kicks. But it’s also ok to not. Let’s not throw these DREAM BIG quotes down others’ throats on social media. Let’s be chill. Be chill. 

I feel like I’m not good enough A Lot. I always feel like I’m missing something, that I’m lazy, and that I should be continually achieving bigger things. I’m not very good at practising what I preach. I’m not good at appreciating time to myself, appreciating what I have, and appreciating what I’ve done. It’s a load of fucking trash. I've done so much for myself and others, and nothing should take that away. I’m a very good person in many ways who IS continually achieving just by surviving in this often awful place. Y’know? 

I’m just a product of my environment, and battling that is hard. But I'm getting better at it. Perspective. Little goals, goals that are fuck all to do with my career or building on the past, knowing what makes me happy, surrounding myself with good people and nice things. Remembering what's important. Being kind. Relieving the pressure. No looking back. No comparing to others AND my past self. 

It’s ok. Change is ok. Settling is ok. Improving at your pace is ok. Changing your mind is ok. Growing up and learning and dealing with a constant barrage of shite is ok. I hope the panel at The Guardian know that.

My dream is to know who I am, what I want, and how to be a good person. That's a big enough challenge. 

1 comment :

  1. You have put my deepest thoughts in words. I needed to read this today, so thank you for writing it!