Sacrifice. It’s a concept that makes glorious heroes in glamorous movies, but its also crippling entire generations. The choice between doing what you love and doing whatever makes a living may seem obvious, but it is not without cost.
With this economy, these expectations, bills and standards and networks, choice is slowly being removed from the equation. Or rather, it is being highlighted and narrowed until you have tangible tunnels leading to specific ends. For some, that’s great.
But I find it disturbing that the guidance counselor of my 13-year-old sister told her that she needs to be thinking about her college, her majors and her future. Oh, and taking proactive steps to become an appealing candidate. Even worse, this is not the first time she has been told that by an authority figure.
To me, that’s not responsible. That’s horrifying. So many wonder, why does each successive generation seem so adult, so prematurely mature and jaded? Because we are making them deliberately shed their innocence in order to gain labels. Labels are the currency of our insecure society, and hint at the death of a necessary stage in our lives: a natural, unforced coming of age.
A child of the 80s, I was raised to believe that I could be anything. I had options, potentials, interests and the freedom to explore myself without justification or reproof. That is now a luxury that is increasingly tossed aside, fading into history without comment.
So, with the encouragement of my elders, I embraced life. Now, I have many passions, and have worked in multiple industries. I have a great portfolio, a good degree, and an intense drive fueled equally by debt, desperation and hope. But to most companies, I am simply one of many.
Apparently, my resume is too diverse, and I am an unpredictable commodity. Like my peers, I am a Risk. And unless the reward is staring somebody in the face, a gamble people are unwilling to take.
This is despite the fact that I have worked multiple jobs since age 15. My different dreams, ideals and aspirations are perceived as unfocused and willfully ignorant. The dreaded “What do you want to do in 5 years?” question has etched a permanent black mark next to my name.
Because I could easily lie, and be convincingly perfect-candidate-material and tell you what you want to hear. I can take my marketing background, and people-reading skills from customer service, and fabricate the perfect answer guaranteed to impress you with my commitment and reliability.
But if I do that, let’s call a spade a spade. I will be selling myself, like many others of my generation have been forced to do, in spirit if not flesh. We have been taught the ability to compartmentalize everything we are into a series of marketable brands. Apparently, internal prostitution is completely socially acceptable.
But I can still choose. So, I choose not to lie or misrepresent myself. I choose to embrace all that I am without completely understanding it. I choose not to accept something that compromises my heart and innate wonder even though it may provide a gilded cage.
I choose to stand in the storm instead of venturing into fair weather land where all the rides are insured and strings are always attached. I choose to believe in humanity’s potential and not our limitations. I choose to see the undefined as beautiful instead of threatening.
When asked to predict my future, I choose to say, “I don’t know.”