Allmy life I’ve been asked about my future plans. Things like what kind of job I want to do or how many kids I want to have always come up in conversation for as long as I can remember.
I would answer with the same response every time: “I want to be a doctor and I want seven kids.”
I was so sure of myself.
Of course, it’s easy to feel like you’ve got your life plan set in stone when the adults around you hide the harsh realities of what it actually looks like to pursue a dream. When I was a kid, I thought in order to become a doctor, you just went to college like everyone else and then you got to help people and get paid to do it. Why wouldn’t everyone want to?
But as I got older, people started to send my dream down the drain. Their questions began to feel like gut punches. “Don’t you know how expensive it is to go to school for that long?” Punch. “Do you know how hard it is to get into medical school?” Punch. “You won’t be able to be a good mother to your children.” Punch. That one hurt the worst. People began to doubt me, even those who loved me most, without realizing it. They didn’t know any better; this was normal.
Every family gathering once I turned 16 was consumed with conversations about where I want to go to school, what I want to major in, when I plan on graduating, if my Advanced Placement (AP) credits transfer, the list goes on. Just because I started driving alone doesn’t mean I immediately figured out the rest of my life. How can anyone expect a 16-year-old to have their future planned out?
College dominates the conversation of nearly every meal, every awkward grocery store side conversation, and my personal favorite, the pre-Prom dinner last year when everyone else had committed to a college and were only months away from going away and starting their lives.
With the first application deadline of Nov. 1 approaching much faster than I would like, the pressure is on now more than ever to appear that I have it all together. But what I’ve started to learn through a lot of thought is this: it is absolutely okay to not have it all together.
As someone who is newly 17, I have parents and a support system of adults who are here for guidance in making these important decisions. Now, I don’t need to be worrying about this alone. They didn’t ask their questions to upset me or discourage me from pursuing my passions. After all, they were just repeating what was asked of them in their adolescence.
What we need to do is break the cycle of demanding young adults to feel the pressure of their parents and guardians to know exactly what they want at such a young age. If people don’t know exactly what they want to do, let them go to a community college and use their A+ scholarships instead of paying $50,000 a year to be somewhere where they are confused and unhappy. If people aren’t sure of what they want to do or where they want to go, don’t ask them everytime you see them until they make up their mind.
Teenagers have enough on their plates with the pressure of trying to make time for school, work, sports, clubs, activities, volunteering and potentially taking on an internship. Then at the end of the day, kids try to get at least the couple hours of sleep they can so they’ll be able to focus in their first hour AP class, all to impress college admissions counselors with their extensive list of extracurriculars and the rigor of their course schedule.
What high schoolers don’t need is another adult demanding we have the rest of our lives mapped out. One day, the decisions will be made and the time will come to announce our plans, but it’s perfectly fine if that day isn’t today.