My name is Ailish, and I don’t know what I want to be, because I don’t know what society wants me to be. I know, this sounds ridiculous. But think about it. From a young age we’re told we can be dreamers. We can go off into the world and become astronauts or save the coral reefs or become famous archeologists. When we’re young, we believe these things. There’s an aura of greatness deep within us waiting to come out. We look forward to the future because it’s filled with possibility of what we can become. It’s saturated with potential. It’s doors are wide open. Until we start walking towards them. They slowly begin to close. The light begins to fade.
As we age, society tells us we need a job. Of course, finding ancient civilizations is a job. But it’s not a good one, says society. It’s not reliable.
I can be a dancer. I can travel the world and perform the art that I’m passionate about. I can make people happy. I can inspire. But you won’t make money, society says. You won’t be able to live.
And so this psychological battle wages on. All of the hopes and dreams that we had as children, vanquished. The confidence that anyone ever tried to instill in us so that we could be who we wanted to be, crushed. All for conformity. All because we wanted to fit into this pre-made mold that some entity named society decided to create. Because it said that the only way for people to “function” is to be who they’re not. They have to look a certain way and talk a certain way and live a certain way. Society says the only way to live and be a useful being in this place is by not living at all.
I think I knew more about myself fifteen years ago then I do now as a twenty year old. I embraced my passions. I danced and did science experiments because they made me happy. I had fringe cut into my hair because I liked it that way. I was quiet, not because I had nothing to say, but because my mind was buzzing with ideas and I couldn’t figure out how to organize all of them. I liked helping people because it was a part of who I was, not because it looked good on paper,.
I wish I could take that mindset and implement it now. Be who I know I innately am and run with it, not looking back. I want to do what makes me happy. Not because that’s who society, friends or parents say I should be, but because those activities make me come alive.
I still don’t know where I’m going to go in life, but I have a choice. I can either live behind the shadows of society and make that my identity, or I can carve my own path. I think I’ll choose the latter.