“Your parent’s have to live with your decision- you have to live it.” -my father
For our entire lives we look up to other people- the first of which are our parents. We look to them for guidance and advice on anything from conflict management to doing our taxes.
We look to other closer examples to draw from be it a sibling or a cousin to learn from their mistakes and be able to rely on their victories- pretending that it is guaranteed for ourselves.
We are then processed through teachers, guidance counsellors, professors, advisors, career conferences, religious leaders etc. which is essentially more people telling you how to live your life.
These are not always bad. Learning to read, write, perform arithmetic are all important. Gaining insight and having social protocol is what gives order and what we see as “morals”.
Growing from the examples of others is what has made us survive as a species. “John died when he ate that leaf- let’s not do that again.”
However, by constantly leaning on these sources for decisions that you make, you grow unable to make these decisions for yourself and by yourself. Consciously or not, you look to other’s for approval and support, unsure of the next step because you weren’t taught it. If it goes outside of the realm of what we are advised/taught/shown in our lives, we become apprehensive. Will this go against the wishes of my family? Church? Peers? Will it work at all? Will I embarrass myself? Will it be good enough?
The fear of the unknown is strong in adults- children are curious and independent by nature until their surroundings introduce them to the system of “advice” above- but we generally like to know the direction we are going in- as treaded before us. Some people refer to this as “calculated risk”. Seeing what others have done, the mistakes made, how you could do it differently. You essentially take their 20-20 hindsight and integrate that into your decision making assuming that the pieces and plays will be the same and you step exactly the same, slightly differently, or decide, based off of what happened to the person of note, to avoid the situation completely.
In current times, this is all understandable. We have an unstable financial future, constantly changing job markets, political climates are forcing us into narrow pockets and groups, and adulting is just plain confusing.
There comes a time, though, where you must make a completely independent decision and some people aren’t ready for that time when it comes. They have been standing on the knowledge of others for too long. This is not a “spread your wings and fly” this is when you hit that moment where you are the FIRST of the people you know to encounter something. When you decide to not take over the family business. Are the first person in your circle to have a child. When not even the internet can tell you what is happening. Or just the first time where you have to stand straight, firm, and justify your decisions.
Now, I am not saying that getting advice from people is a bad thing. It is often a good thing (see Dad above quote). I am saying that allowing those people to guide you blindly through your life can limit you and some people aren’t even aware of how little they listen to themselves in relation to how much they put weight on the opinions of others.
Some people want to do the working 9-5, kids, picket fence, dogs etc. That is so wonderful. Congratulations on making those decisions, priorities, and goal-setting. Follow that path, your dream, and do it by any means or direction you want. Please do it for you.
You should have heard the conversation I had with my mom when I said I was going into theatre… or when I told my dad I was going volunteering in Guatemala… or when I told either of them that I was going to travel 8-10 months per year for work…or that I was turning down a good contract to move to another country with no real plan (and if I don’t get my visa I will just backpack…) but guess what, they were my decisions to make.
Have I gotten support or guidance on every decision I have made in my life? Absolutely not. Was that terrifying? Abso-freaking-lutely. Because those weren’t what I, like many of us, have been moulded to be or do.
There are these systematic, pre-approved pathways of “success”. Generations of fostering the same growth in similar directions.
When I decided to trail-blaze there was so much external doubt. “What if it doesn’t work?” “What is your backup plan?” “There are no jobs in the arts.” “I always saw you getting your degree.” “You’re throwing away your potential.”
Like there wasn’t enough fear or concern or doubt in my own mind.
I did it. All of the things that I feel is right, I do. I have learned to affirm myself with:
If it doesn’t work out… so what? Something will.
I understand that this is a privileged stance to have. Having savings, fall-back options, supportive family and friends all over the world. I also have the courage to say that and believe it, feel it, and trust with my personal 20-20 that it is true.
If/when you trail-blaze, it is scary. I won’t sugar-coat and tell you that everything will work and be perfect. Though the 9-5 pre-approved success pathway is also not guaranteed.
I encourage you to look at examples, learn, grow, make your own decisions. Do them all for you.Do what you want to do. Try what you want to try. If it doesn’t work, try again.
Are there stressors attributed to these decisions? Yes. Going back to school or changing your major will increase debt, leaving your partner will be complicated and hurt, but these are worth it if it makes you happy. If, to you, they make your life more worth while.
Now I know that I am young. I am 24, what could I possibly know about life yet? The way that I see it, you are never too late to start making your own decisions and living your own life for you.
I know what you are thinking: I can’t. I’m too old. It’s too late. etc. If you have kids-you can do it, if you have an established career-you can do it. Making your own decisions for you doesn’t have to mean starting over completely. It could be as simple as finally taking that yoga class and fitting in time for you. Deciding to take up a blog (oh, hey.) Or even deciding to go to/leave your weekly religious gatherings.
You can make your own choices and live your own life at any stage. Even if it is currently the life you want to keep living! Just take ownership of it. It’s yours.
Your sorrows, your accomplishments, your travels, your failures, etc. are all yours. Own them. Take control of them.
At the end of the day, you are responsible for yourself- so you may as well be happy about it.
“The greatest mistake a man could ever make, is to be afraid of making one“- Elbert Hubbard