8teen, 20Six, Th3rty: You’re Doing Fine

Have you ever been terrified of a question? Have you ever been scared that you’re not doing as well as you should be? Some people are scared of the dark, some people are scared of fish and some people are scared of looking back and thinking “I could have eaten that” but not me-I’m like the Nike of dinner; I just eat it! No, for me one of my biggest fears used to be a question:

“So, what do you do?”

I would dread that question at a party, on the street, anywhere in fact, because I was embarrassed. Not embarrassed of what I was, but of what I wasn’t. I wasn’t a dot.com billionaire. I hadn’t discovered a cure for anything. I wasn’t the inventor of an app that tracked how long your bread got toasted for while simultaneously syncing your music and finding ‘single hunnies in your area’. And I’m still not any of those things. But most people aren’t; I just thought that they were and that I should be too. See, I have a theory and I think a lot of people fall victim to it:

A lot of people define themselves by what they do, by their job. “I’m a vet, I’m a shop assistant” whatever it is. But a lot of people hate what they do. Now correct me if I’m wrong but; if you define yourself by what you do and you hate what you do, doesn’t that mean you hate yourself?

And I think this is a problem for so much of our generation: the pressure to do well is immense. So we try to label ourselves, to validate oursleves by putting whatever we think is our best foot and best profile picture forward. But you are not just your job. You are not only as good as your last selfie. You’re so much more complex than you can ever describe or photograph or tweet so enjoy what you are, not loath what you aren’t. Those things should be fun, not fatal.

Only recently did I start doing what I loved, not what I was forcing myself to like, and I’ve never been more comfortable with who I am in my whole life. So this is all about saying just some of the things I would have liked to have heard a year ago, so let’s do it:

“Don’t compare your success to anyone except the version of who you were yesterday. If you’re trying to be a little kinder and a little smarted today then you’re doing fine. I’m not saying give up, I’m saying you should strive for whatever version of greatness is great for you. Yeah some people are married at 27, some 20 year olds have the car of your dreams, but do you honestly think they’re not looking at other people too? The truth is the grass isn’t actually greener on the other side; it’s greenest where you water it most. Don’t feel guilty because you emigrated, distance from family and friends is in no way a reflection of how much you love them; some people spend their whole lives in the same house and never say ‘I love you’. If you did stay at home that doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you fortunate. Someone will aways have better grades, try your best, that’s all anyone can ask. Most of the time that won’t be good enough, but if you always try your best then sometime it will actually be the best. No job is perfect, even rose farmers get thorns and porn stars seldom get health care! But if you genuinely do hate your job, get out and get out now and into something sustainable. So she shot you down! Big deal, guys have been shot down over France and survived so just get on with it. He didn’t text back? Delete his number in the next ten seconds and forget him forever in the following five. Hearts aren’t practical, they’re breakable so that’s just that. But we’re all the ‘one that got away’ to someone else. If you want to be accepted, start by accepting others. And chase your dreams, because you’re faster than you think.”

The point I’m making here is that we’re all feeling the same, we’re all playing the same game and everyone is getting played, nobody can win if we’re more focused on the losers. We’re all seeing it while so desperately trying not to be seen. And I think we are all so thoroughly exhausted. Everyone is insecure. EVERYONE. But our differences are our attributes. So the next time you meet someone don’t put them under the pressure we all fear. Don’t ask them what they do, instead ask them:

“What do you like to do?”

Because that one word allows us to be our personalities and not our jobs; identities and not just occupations. We are in an age where we have never been more accepting of people’s sexuality, more progressive in terms of gender equality and race inclusion, and we are always striving for better, so are we really doing all that badly as a generation?

I don’t have all the answers, I just think that everyone is fed up with the question. I think we could all do with a break, and we should start by giving it to ourselves.

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