|Posted on February 23, 2014 at 9:45 AM|
Written by Ellie Skelton
Talking about the future ironically takes up a lot of the present moment, whether it’s an aggressive inquiry from your mother about when you’ll be moving out, your father questioning whether or not you’ll be following in his footsteps, or an overly keen (if not slightly mad) tutor that foresees your shining future in their subject which you were just about to drop. Whoever it may be, the pressure is undeniably on the younger generations to have high expectations for the future and then to stay loyal to those expectancies forever more.
So why is it that older generations are so adamant in asking such challenging and problematic questions about the future? What will they benefit from this questioning that basically encourages young people to lie; “So what are your future aspirations (insert common name to avoid awkward identification of said person, but for the sake of this example: - Tom)?” “I want to be a doctor father.” Tom takes History, Art and Sociology. A career in medicine is ultimately impossible for Tom to pursue, not only due to his chosen ‘soft’ subjects but also owing to his lacking work experience in a hospital, which the majority of University courses require. Needless to say, Tom knows this career pathway has been sealed to him since he dropped Biology. Yet, “I want to be a doctor”, continues to slip out whenever someone asks him the dreaded question. Why? Because you can’t argue with “I want to be a doctor.” It is a closed answer - end of discussion. An added bonus is that it just oozes intelligence, commitment and the good will that surrounding your persona. But that comes only secondary to the dazed expression of the questioner who then swiftly changes the subject. You might as well have said “I’m going to be more successful than you so 'get lost'.”
It’s all very well for people who genuinely aspire to become a doctor, though. They aren’t required to lie to an ancient family member whose extremely traditional outlook on life leaves you feeling apologetic for not signing up to the army. Those few studying three sciences at A2 are not obliged to ‘have a chat’ with their ‘concerned’ parents to evaluate the pros and cons of taking a gap year in order to ‘think about things.’ No, those prosperous few who sincerely have their future planned live free from worry and lies and will, in the future, be earning a lot more money than you. So what happens to the rest of us? What happens to ‘Tom’ who will soon have to explain to his father why “I want to be a doctor” was a joke he failed to appreciate.
Well, if lying has gotten you anywhere, you will have learnt that people are not actually remotely interested in your future, aside from maybe your parents and the odd highly paid teacher. The rest solely ask because they feel it their duty as a well-respected member of society and law abiding citizen to do so. Such lack of genuine interest should suggest that a truthful answer is not required; if they don’t care what your hopes and dreams are, why should you bother to tell them? Having privately discerned that a lie might be required in a particular situation, proceed with boldness! A small fib won’t do; have all intention to shock this naïve questioner and prevent them asking this hateful question ever again - saving the rest of us from this particular threat.
“I’m going to start my own bee farm” is somewhere along the lines of what you should tell them. “I want to represent my country in the ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ World Championship” will also do fine. You might even push the boat right out with “I’m an aspiring nettle eater.” If that doesn’t shut them up for at least a year, I don’t know what will.
Eventually, the number of times you’re faced with “so… what do you want to be?” will diminish. Slowly, the awkward conversations about the future will fade and you’ll be left to just yourself, for it’s only natural that you question what your own aspirations are. And perhaps that’s the problem with society and its prying disposition; we ask each other before we ask ourselves. We look to family, to friends, to the general mass of doubtful expression before our own voice. “What do you want to be?” can’t often be answered in just one sentence and so maybe the only thing for us to do is just shrug, smile and hope. Hope that whatever vision of yourself, that you desperately cling to each and every day, plays out. And if it doesn’t, well, you’ve always got your A Levels, even if they are a little on the ‘soft’ side.