I have been alive for 5,840 days, well actually 5,841,my 16th birthday was yesterday, but since I was five years of age those older than me would constantly pose the question “What do you want to do when you grow up?” My very first response was a switch job girl, someone who did something new everyday, I had many interests as most rambunctious kindergartners do and did not want to be confined to a particular specialty.
As I grew up I learned from parents and teachers that this was not realistic, and over the years my preferences switched – one year it was a teacher, the next a veterinarian, and when I got really into Grey’s Anatomy, I wanted to be a surgeon. As I got older the questions became more frequent and the conversations more serious, especially after entering high school. The real world seemed so fast approaching and I was left floundering, feeling like I was supposed to know exactly how my life was going to go and exactly what I wanted out of it, even though at the time I was only 14 years old.
This year a required elective for graduation is the Planning 10 course, which covers everything from health and finance to workplace safety, with the first unit beginning with careers. It starts slow planning out your senior courses however it quickly transitions to choosing universities, majors, picking careers, looking at employment rates, and taking personality quizzes to see where you best fit. It was a real downer when my aspirations of being a investigative journalist or criminal lawyer were instead replaced with human resource manager.
I can’t recall how many times over the semester I heard the phrase “planning is stressing me out,” from my peers. However, planning isn’t the only culprit there is various sources that put pressure on teenagers to succeed in school at an all-time high. University acceptance rates are lowering each year and the competition is getting more competitive to have something that makes you stand out as worthy, getting good grades is no longer enough. If the pressure of perfect transcripts isn’t too much, the parental pressure to do something that earns you a scholarship so that they won’t have to bare the financial burden might be. That is if you’re lucky enough to have your parents pay for an education, otherwise it may end up all on you.
This game of college admissions, figuring out what you want to do when you grow up, what your future entails shouldn’t be forced onto teenagers, who already have enough pressure trying to fit in. It should be a process of self discovery, not one of trying to fit the most successful mould. Students, should be applauded for flourishing in the areas they have a passion for, not cut down and told to focus on more realistic options.
Discovering who you are and growing as well as being a kid is an important balance to sustain mental health and happiness. I think we all need to take a step back sometimes, be a little less focused, and have a bit more of the switch job girl in us. Taking time to try many things until you find the right fit, and once you do, not letting go of it just because your success isn’t set in stone.Ultimately what matters is finding your passions no matter how successful society deems them, because we have thousands of days left of this earth and no one has to live them but you, and they will seem much longer if your not doing something you love.
Ella Lane is a Grade 10 student at Claremont secondary school.