I have never before been so grateful for my scattered interests and random fragments of knowledge. To be a hobbyist is to pursue an interest to the point where it becomes a personality trait, a part of you.
Personally, I always found it difficult to answer the questions about the future whereas my classmates erupted in a flurry of ideas. I remained silent, retreating into my shell, hoping no one would notice my lack of response. Everyone seems centred around the future and yet where others saw crystal clear dreams ahead; I stared into a blur. Everyone else strategically picked classes, extracurriculars and volunteering opportunities,designed to grant them the best chance at success - be it for university, careers or simply due to a fluent and continuous sense of self. In contrast, on paper, I look disjointed: grabbing every opportunity that came my way, joining every class and every extracurricular I could get my hands on. Admittedly, for a while, I was desperate to secure my future and since I had no clue (and still don’t) about what it might be I gripped onto every single option - determined not to let it slip by me.
A few years later, I have realised a few things about myself. I still don’t know what the future holds for me and I haven’t yet developed a sense of continuous theme - a coherent personality perse - but I have grown to accept that. In fact, I embrace it now. A few decisions have passed me by, but that’s okay. I may not be as interested in my chosen subjects as I am in psychology, literature or economics, but I’ve discovered that there are so many ways to learn; to expand your knowledge, you don’t have to have it scheduled or tested, you simply have to want to learn it - and perhaps that is what preserves my interest in them. On paper, I still seem a little scatter-brained and a little disoriented, but in person I am a patchwork of interests, hobbies and bite-sized factoids, and I know so many little things that others may not have cared for and I treasure them all. There is a passion that seeps in when I talk about them and although our conversations will never flow in a coherent manner as I leap from art history to biotechnology, you will never be bored.
Especially during COVID times, it is important to have an activity that will keep you grounded: the feel of paint against your fingers, the pulse of your body as you dance, the clickety-clack of the yielding keyboard as you code furiously - everything in this moment is just as memorable, just as important as what is to come. How can you expect to have memories to look back on fondly if you never have the time to make them? Everyone pines for ‘casual magic,’ but the truth is sometimes we have to carve out those moments ourselves. Take time to appreciate the little things: the way you hum while you brush your teeth, the way the sunlight dims as the rainclouds approach, the way you sway your hips as you pour your cereal. All these little things which define us.
People don’t find their passions; they make them. The more time you invest, the better you get and the better you get the more you like it and suddenly you have a vested interest in it. Sure, the conversation may start with probing questions into future plans and how you’re going to get there, but what will you say when they ask you what you did today? Or yesterday? Or in the past week? It is impossible to get excited with someone who simply isn’t interesting - or interested in being interesting. We are an amalgamation of all the moments we spend awake, and what good is it if you spend half of your life preparing for the next half? No one wants to only be half a person, but to be whole we have to realise that the present you deserves just as much time, attention and appreciation as future you.
Now, I am excited for the future, even though I don’t know anything definitively. I can see all the paths ahead of me but I can also see their intersections - I understand that maybe in the middle I may want to change and I will be able to. Or maybe I don’t want to choose and I’ll put in a little effort and build bridges between them so I can live all my dreams. The future is not something to be afraid of; it is not something which must be detailed by the second. The future is merely a faint reflection of your present so invest in yourself, grow your interests, make more memories.
I can’t wait to be the person I’ll blossom into.
We walk upon empty streets,
heads-down but eyes forward -
no time to greet.
Sprinting towards our goals;
we choose not to know what our eyes don’t explore.
There will come a time of festivity and fair fortune;
something of meaning, worthy of devotion,
Will my eyes be sewn shut? Will my heart be open?
If we train our eyes forward, lacking emotion,
without the joy or celebration, it leads me to question
if a world without true happiness is one I would like to live in.
As far back as I can remember, I have always been classed a ‘patient’ person. I was proud of this title and, understandably, as an impressionable first grader yearning for praise, I practically beamed with pride whenever it was mentioned. What I soon noticed, however, was that the term came with all sorts of restrictions: I was always the last person allowed to go to the restroom; always the last person to get to choose my secret santa gift; always the last person in show-and-tell. As soon as I noticed the double-edged sword I did my best to overcome it - I signed up to events first, I volunteered to share my ideas first and I really, really tried to put myself out there. Soon, I had two titles: ‘enthusiastic’ and ‘patient’.
This was possible only because of the pre-existing social attitudes to go-getters and those who were well-mannered; they’re not considered to be juxtaposing adjectives - not even close. It is a much bigger challenge to apply the same to ‘strength’ and ‘weakness’. Lately, everyone is talking about how we all have different definitions of strength and while that may be true, we come no closer to accepting ‘weakness’.
I’m a bit of a crier. Always was, probably always will be. I cry when I’m angry, overwhelmed, disappointed or disheartened in short bursts of fat, ugly tears. (Funnily enough, anger is usually my go-to response when something makes me upset but that’s a topic for another article.)
Crying is pretty much advertised as the universal sign for a weakness but I don’t think we see the whole picture. For me, crying gives me a sense of clarity. In a weird way, my frequent moments of ‘weakness’ give me strength to face what’s coming. I think that weakness is from where we derive our strength, two sides of the same coin. I don’t cry in front of most people - only those I care about most. The people who care enough to probe, the people who make a difference in my life, those are the people I disclose my burdens to. I don’t (usually) need advice. I don’t need attention. I don’t need anything from them at all. Sometimes though, it's useful to have people validate your worries - convince you that you’re not actually just paranoid and sometimes it’s a useful way to be more mindful of each others’ feelings and make sure you haven’t gone too far down the rabbit hole that you’re no longer aware (or make a conscious effort) to accommodate each others’ feelings. A little support goes a long way.
To be honest, I actually prefer just curling up in my blanket and having a good cry to myself. Even when nothing’s ‘wrong’ or ‘stressful’ or ‘upsetting’. Sometimes I’m just so excited about the future or agitated that my dreams aren’t coming towards me fast enough. Some feelings can’t be conjured into words and written away and in the absence of my usual outlets I revert back to the easiest way I know how. Emotions aren’t meant to be tucked away or controlled or hidden, they’re meant to be expressed. And if there’s one person who understands you best of all - it’s yourself.
You don’t have to be a strong person to get through life. Just a hopeful one. It’s okay not to be a strong person as long as you know how to pick yourself up after you fall - some of us stumble more than most but the people who keep going are the people who are able to recognise that not every situation has to be crippling and can let things go. It doesn’t really matter how hard you fall as long as you are able to bounce back, ready to give things another shot. Strength, to me, is the ability to accept weakness and the determination to continue your pursuit - whether that be academic or personal.
In the end, people will only see how far you’ve come - not how many times you stumbled. Don’t give up. I’ll be striving with you!
Why should others believe in you?
This is a question you need to ask yourself at the beginning every single day - and come back to with an answer. Most people take it for granted that their harshest critic is themselves but this is often an excuse - a veil - to hide low self-esteem and self-confidence. It is important to realise your own value and, often, the best way to start is by analysing why the people who support you believe you have the potential to achieve your dreams.
It’s better to convince yourself of your strengths than to convince others. Now, I know this is hard to understand but bear with me. The world is built on a meritocratic system, constantly evaluating and assigning values to every action, thought, and feeling, and it’s easy to fall prey to the need for constant validation. What people fail to realise, however, is that only you know how much of your effort you are putting into a task - be it in terms of time, spirit, or research. Most assume that you are working at full capacity. They feel they are inclined to judge your potential based on this but, we all know that that’s never quite true. What other people deem to be within our grasp is but a conservative option but we find it is easy to downgrade our dreams, especially when we talk about it as an impossible reach.
I’m in 11th grade now and at that crucial juncture in life where everyone seems to be asking the ‘important’ questions and offering unsolicited advice. Now, more than ever, I have had to rely on myself to push past the external limitations that school and relatives constantly try to impose upon me. If you are having to deal with similar issues, don’t worry, I’ll try my best to guide you through it.
This is most useful when you simultaneously break down the decisions you are struggling with. For example, if you are choosing between majors, look at the careers they lead to and break them out into the tasks they comprise of, the qualities required, and the importance placed on certain skills, and compare them with your own list. Nothing will be 100% compatible and you can always develop your skills but it is a good guideline to follow.
It seems like a daunting task at first but you will get there. Sometimes the world is against you; sometimes it’s you, but out of the two it’s always better to be on your own side even if no one else seems to be. A little bit of self-belief goes a long way. I hope this helps you in taking your first steps towards self-growth!