I went from being a “kid” with zero expectations held above me to an “adult”, at the age of only sixteen, in which I was suddenly supposed to know exactly what I was going to do with my life. I don’t know.. Maybe I want to do education. Well at least thats what I’ve been saying for the past I-don’t-know-how-many years of my life. That’s what teachers and family expect. Mandi the Teacher. Now as I gather more responsibilities, and further find what I’m good at, not good at, I learn that I am on a dead end path and that choice is not what my forte is. I simply do not have what it takes to teache ornery little rugrats or deal with that funky teenage stage of middle school for the rest of MY life. However, I’m supposed to know what I want to do, what I want to be, and that occupation has always been my net when those questions are thrown at me. Am I allowed to change that?
It sounds silly. I mean, OF COURSE you can change your life choice, silly girl! Right? The thing is, we are never told that. We are never shown that the most famous people tried other jobs and paths before the big one they were known for. We fail to see the darkness that lay behind them, the failures, the slippery slopes, the struggles, the pain, the pressure, the stress. As young adults surrounded by successful parents and siblings and teachers, we aren’t enlightened that “Hey! You’re probably going to fail once or twice or sixty times!”. No one wants to be brutal. No one wants to ‘set us up for failure’ or make us 'think its good to not have goals’. Its damaging to the youth, to believe we, at sixteen, seventeen, or eighteen, should just know who we are and what we want to be.
In Siddhartha, there was a message that really hit me. Siddhartha has a purpose in life. He is on a journey, he knows where the end is, and he finds the paths to get there. What I took from that theme, perhaps in my own way, was the point that when he was on a path that he knew was a dead end, he found a new one! He didn’t care that he left his family to join the Samanas and ended up not staying with them. That is important to me, to be okay with changing paths to get to where I end up deciding to go. It seems almost looked down upon, to not entirely know the journey. Does anyone ever, really know? I feel it is rare, and purely luck to guess a right, clear path on a first try.
We like to make it seem easy. We like to make life seem like a math problem. “If you do this and this, you will get here.” Point A to point B to point C. Thats not life! Life is not point A to point B, its point A to getting stuck behind a coaltruck cruising at 15 miles per hour on your WAY to point B, only to show up a half hour late to find out they had filled the job opening you’ve been waiting three long weeks for, which then changes your point C which was SUPPOSED to be a stable life in that beautiful yellow house on the corner of Ashbrook Street but now that point C is diminished by the failure of achieving point B, sending you back to point A, which you locked your keys in the house so you’ll have to break into the back window hoping the nosy, overdramatic neighbors aren’t home because once they call the cops you might as well forget entirely about point A and just go find yourself a lawyer.
But why don’t we ever talk about THAT? The story of Van Gough is told, but that still only applies to those with direction. Even still, only a small percentage of those with direction have a good shot of getting there on the first try.
Forgive me, but “do your best and you will succeed! Shoot for the stars, land among the moon!” just never seem to be good enough. Sure, they have beautiful, happy, inspiring messages to them that should in fact be taught, but they are so irrelevant to an angry mother or boss standing over you wondering why you can’t carry the weight of work, school, home life, personal issues, and jolly fun without stumbling over one or the other. Sure, mom, I shot for the full ride to Stanford but I decided to spend my Friday nights with friends rather than studying, so here I am in college debt at the local university. Does that count as the 'moon’? Yes, boss, I tried my best, but my best is not enough to get me the promotion because Jill over there has had years worth of private lessons in her million dollar house because she was an only child with two heart surgeons for parents and I’ve lived in a reduced-lunch home and everything I know is what I’ve taught myself.
I write this on my seventeenth birthday, after a summer of working 4 to 8 hours every day selling chicken to ungrateful, better-than-everyone customers at a mall that sometimes smells like a musty pool house. I write this as my boss expects me to quit band to put more time into that chicken palace, I write as my band director remains persistent on me trying to get lessons because theres still hope I eventually get into music school should I even care to audition. I write this as my sister continues to be successful with her newly-owned business degree that she has known she has wanted since the start of high school, and she worked for since day one. I write this as my mom doesn’t understand why I’m questioning my journey to become a teacher, while my father tells me to do what I’m best at, while my more distant family tells me to find a job that makes good money. I write this as I watch people my OWN age stress over what they want in life while my friends ranging from 21 to 24 still have no idea where exactly they want to go. I write this as I have finally understood the madness the media and the school systems have imposed on society, forcing us from as early as fourteen to just know what to do with our lives. We are denied of every other right, you know, because we’re too young. We’re 'too young’ to know our sexuality, to young to know that we don’t want kids later on in life, too young to know whether or not we want a tattoo because those are PERMANENT decisions we are making with a TEMPORARY mindset, yet we are somehow or another supposed to PICK A LIFE CAREER and know the way to get there by the time we shake hands with the principle in front our parents and our whole class’s parents, receiving our degree of twelve years of nonsense. I for one am not perfect, I am not a superhero, I am not a decisive child. I am a human, I am one to enjoy exploring the depths of others, of life, of myself. I, at the age of seventeen, do not know what I am best at, I do not know where my path is headed, and my epiphany after reading Siddhartha is that all of that uncertainty is okay. The path to the destination does not have concrete walls along the side. They are simply dirt paths lined with weeds. They are paths that intersect and crisscross and circle and merge and part and thin out and widen up. They are paths that walk parallel to others, paths with bumps and holes and obstacles and dead ends and thats okay, because the next path over is a stones throw or two and we all have plenty of time. My epiphany was that I, at seventeen, don’t have to have a job lined up. I don’t have to know for sure what I’m going to do with my life because I can 110% guarantee that there will be a tempting turnoff before I reach there, or perhaps my path with merge with another, perhaps my path will lead me to no where, or perhaps it is overgrown with weeds. It doesn’t matter, because I have time, and I have no reason to rush myself onto a dead end path.