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Waiting... but for what?

It's one of the most profound hurdles in young adult life, pondering on exactly what exactly you should do.

'When I was your age, I had no idea...'

I would hear as I perched over the counter, steam jug in hand, trying not to burn myself. The words used by esteemed adults that seemingly had their lives together, reminiscing on the joyful moments of their youth. Sure, they were two decades my senior, and arguably had lives of their own; maybe they even carried a stack of mistakes, perhaps they were even regretful. But from where I was standing, they hadn't struggled at all. They had always had it figured out.

Through exchanges like these, it became a habit for contemplation: I know that I'm determined, but I don't know what for?

It rings true for many of us, the salient question on what to do, and what we ought to do. Sure, we might have interests: to write, sing, or paint benches; but our artistic pursuits, though deeply moving, sometimes can't put food on the table. So, to remove what we're strictly passionate about, can more often than not leave us feeling a little lost.

Arguably, it doesn't help that from a young age, we're often pressured to mature quickly. The great question, universally poised to use from around the ages of three, continues to stick in adulthood: what would you like to be when you're grown up? It reminds us of how far we've come, yet how little we've achieved. Sure, I'm not an astronaut, but I can knit you a scarf.

In the midst of this, comes the unsettling disposition of trying to achieve the unachievable. If we don't have our dream job by the age of 23, or married by 27, we're failures. That life becomes almost meaningless the moment we receive that rejection email, or we didn't attend the right school. It can leave us feeling overwhelmed, and maybe even distraught. If we don't have our lives together now, then what's the point?

Thus, the idea of not knowing what we want to do, only heightens the dilemma. When we compare ourselves with peers, who seem to be doing a far better job at adult life, we find ourselves riddled with murky feelings and emotions. Trying to solicit these fears can be a challenge; no matter how hard we try to conspire an alternative to our problems, we find ourselves back to where we started: just what is our gut trying to articulate?

Narcissus staring at his own reflection, c. 1903

It is through these unsettled qualms that have many of us feeling trapped. Perhaps we might not have a hard-hitting graduate scheme covering humanitarian or global issues in the newsroom; or we aren't volunteering around the world, assisting in developing communities or nations; maybe our current job just isn't feeling all that interesting. All in all, our lives might feel unimpressive.

Maybe, the reflection of ourselves isn't meeting expectations.

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, c. 1558

Centred is a ploughman guiding his horse. A shepherd is minding his flock. Beyond lies ships heading towards the harbour of a bustling city. In this painting, everyone is seemingly distracted of Icarus's dilemma (flailing limbs can be seen closely at the bottom right). In retrospect, these characters are experiencing their lives with acute difference, irrespective of their close proximity, or the poor soul drowning beneath them.

In this context, we are so widely concerned about our own lives, that we often forget to imagine just how lucky we are. Like Icarus, we might feel inclined to rush into areas of our lives that we just aren't prepared for. Though we might not have a set of wings - at least we won't be flying too close to the sun - we may feel impatiently frustrated at just how slow and unclear our current trajectory is. Being eager to jump from one stone to the next, be it a career change or travelling the world, is a commendable journey. Naturally, it's something we should all be inclined to push towards. Though, we should first learn to solicit these feelings, be it our doubts and fears, and accept our current position, its foundations and its comforts, with a clear mind.

Often, waiting can be the best option we have.


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