Lost in choices.
Serving suggestion: This post is best read with “Eye of the Needle” by Sia playing in the background.
I should have known it was coming; it had been bubbling away under the surface throughout the day. Just a faint little scratch on my back where even my disproportionately long arms cannot reach.
It hit me as I was standing there surrounded by strangers. It had been a while since its last visit, but here it was again as the bleached white horizon melted into a majestic, luminous blue. What were once trees were now shadowy silhouettes in this twilight puppet show.
Here we all are – standing centimetres away from each other, whilst only paying our palms any regard. We wouldn’t be able to hear what our neighbour said even if they did say anything. Those white cords are so tangled up in everything now.
I have been drafting this blog post, on and off, for nine months.
It was nine months ago that this new reality suddenly clarified itself. And when it did, it all became rather petrifying.
It began with the realisation that I am nearing the end of my current life stage. It is all fairly insignificant, but in this moment it feels so daunting. See, up until now there was such a limited range of choices:
You can choose to go to this school or that school. You can choose to be friends with this person or that person, this group or that group. You can choose to break the rules or toe the line. You can choose to go into a trade or stay at school. You can go on a gap year or work or go to university. You can choose to dress how you like. You can choose to study, basically, anything. You can choose to be friends with these people or those people. You can choose where you work part-time. You can choose where you want to live. You can choose to change jobs. You can choose what you consume, literally and metaphorically.
But the next set of choices is bewildering.
You can choose what you want to do with the rest of your life. You can choose which industry you want to work in. You can choose to travel the world without a return ticket. You can choose to think about the future and save up for your first property. You can choose to move to the other side of the world. You can choose, well, anything.
It just feels like these decisions are going to have so many more repercussions, that they are going to be far more instrumental in determining the tone of the rest of my life than all of the decisions I have made prior to today.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Ahh, kindergarten cliches.
I cannot clearly remember what I “wanted to be” as a kid. Although, I have a vague feeling that there was a stage when I wanted to be a marine biologist (mainly because it sounded exotic). Apart from that I can’t seem to remember, which for someone who often has a disturbingly detailed memory, is mildly disconcerting. I can vividly recall posters on our kindergarten walls, but I can’t remember what I wanted to grow up to be.
These days I have a better idea of what I want to be. And by “better idea” I mean “I have an answer to the “So, what are you going to do when you finish uni?” question”.
“Marketing,” I reply. That seems to satisfy all parties. And, look, it’s not like I don’t want to work in marketing. I do. I think I do, at least. I mean, it combines many of my skills and interests, plus it is a growing industry where, in relative terms, there are jobs available (the novelty!) I think I can see myself doing well in marketing and enjoying it to a greater or lesser extent.
To a greater or lesser extent.
Unfortunately, I am blessed and cursed with having learnt about the concept of fulfilling work. On the one hand, it is wonderful and inspiring. On the other, I am letting it paralyse me, because now, although I try to rationalise it, that is what I am seeking.
I am going to start working full-time in the near future – something which many of my peers have already been doing for multiple years – and I just want to know that I am making the right decision for me. I feel like I’ve wasted enough of my early twenties farting around as I struggled through uni (and life in general).
I guess I’ve allowed myself to think that my twenties are the only formative time of my life. Yes, I think they are very formative, but I’ve gotten this idea in my head that I have to get through a heck of a lot of stuff in the next seven years. Lord.
Where within the marketing industry should I work? Should I work in media or branding or PR or digital? Should I work agency or client side? Are all of the stereotypes about client and agency sides true? (My experience thus far says “yes”.) Will the work that I do actually make a positive contribution to the world? Will I enjoy it? Will it be fulfilling? Or will it govern my life? Will I chase after success and then realise that it doesn’t actually mean that much?
Or should I just take advantage of the fact that I am young and go and pursue my dream of living in Italy? Should I just ship my ass over to Italia and not look back? But what about buying my investment property? And getting started on my career? And doing sensible setting-myself-up-for-life things that I want to do? And what if I don’t ever come home?
That I have the audacity to complain is, in many ways, truly breathtaking.
I am in the privileged, incredibly privileged position where I have choice. My pay, even if it’s seen as a “low” starting salary among my equally junior peers, will still place me amongst the most wealthy in the world. My work may not be as glamorous or interesting as that of others, but I’ll probably work in a safe, reasonably friendly workplace with my own computer, stationery galore, clean(ish) carpets, a swivel chair, bins which are emptied on a regular basis, flushing toilets, a kitchen, running water and air-conditioning. There may not be that many women in the boardroom – yet – but women are, on the whole, respected and treated as equals.
Yet, despite all of this, I look ahead and wonder whether I am going to be in the air-conditioned confines of an office for the rest of my foreseeable future with despair. And I wonder, if I choose to channel my ambitions and energy into this part of my life am I going to get to the end of my life – whether that be months, years or decades away – and be satisfied with how I spent the precious little time that I have on this Earth?
The buses, these great mammoths, weave through impossibly tight cracks in the traffic. The doors open and we, with our white cords dangling around our scarf-wrapped necks, silently file in. Will I come to know each of these faces, will I watch them silently age, but never know their names?
There are only remnants of burnt orange along the horizon now and what was a royal blue has been submerged in a midnight ink. Where did the sunshine go? I barely know what the weather was like today. Is this what being an adult is meant to be like?
The tear. It’s another one of those idiosyncrasies of the English language: it is both a noun (the water-like result of crying which comes from your eyes), a verb (to rip something) and yet another noun (the result of the ripping).
This is the latter noun; this is my tear: I am unsure which direction to take my life in. I would really just like to be able to do it all. Or at least to do something and know that I was making the right decision for me, knowing that I wasn’t making a terrible mistake and wasting another irretreivable day.
And, ironically, this tear can sometimes result in another noun: the water-like droplets which carve out their path through my makeup.