The Hypocrisy of Fulfillment
‘So what’s the plan then? Have you been applying for jobs? Have you got any interviews lined up? Time waits for no one. Get serious with life before it gets serious with you.’ We’ve all heard it. Sometimes it gets to you and you fight back; sometimes you smile, wave and play dead. Either way, this narrative will always include the fact (opinion) that millennials have had so much handed over to them on a plate and life was much more difficult for those who came before. It is hard to believe when you think about how much you struggle in your own life, until you listen to their stories and learn the things they were doing at the same age.
For most of the older generation, what one liked, enjoyed or wanted didn’t matter one bit. They did what they had to do out of necessity of their given situation — with their chronicles usually going along the lines of; ‘I sacrificed my dream of becoming ______ (insert noteworthy profession), to work like an animal in order to provide for as many people and families as possible, raised you and your siblings only so that you can now go on to…make video games?’
Though I don’t agree with them completely. The effects of social media as well as our most necessary ‘politically correct’ climate of today are bear traps they are very lucky to have missed out on. What is hard to disagree with, is that most of the older generations’ lives laid down the foundations upon which we have built ours.
Hence, it comes as no surprise why professions such as doctors, engineers, lawyers, are so highly revered. For many of the youth back then, these lines of professions were mostly unfulfilled dreams that were too difficult to pursue. They were careers reserved for the elite or the exceptions as the closest the average person got to was a ‘A day in the life’ style day dream.
Now however, the dynamics have changed. The ‘average’ youth – not rich but not lacking of anything – can go on to have the career they want, as education has become much more accessible, and government funding and support makes it more affordable, whereas, most of the old guard based their life’s work on necessity, these days millennials and Gen Z can base theirs on fulfillment. Not their fault, not our fault. Just the way it is. However, most find the old guard want to live their dreams through the young, but we have our own – and unfortunately they don’t always match.
I had the opportunity to go to university, but even then, I knew I would never put on a suit and noose – sorry, tie – and sit at a desk in a nice, tall office building. Since graduating, till today, I have felt the pressure grow, with each passing day, to fall in line and trek to the highest floor of that office building. Not just from my family (understandably), but also from my peers. Peers who genuinely believe in the life they are sold and encourage you to stop fighting it because there is nothing to fight. This is ‘the way forward’ and the route to happiness. Anything other, will simply be detrimental.
‘Birds of a feather flock together’ – we all graduated together and though none of us wanted that corporate life, eventually one by one, they succumbed and found themselves working ‘good’ jobs. And almost as if trying to convince themselves, they would try and sell the same to me; “It’s a good life man, you’ll enjoy it, just apply and see what happens.” A few pay checks later, the tune changed a little bit; “It’s alright man – I mean the money’s good, the job itself could be a bit more stimulating but it’s okay.” Eventually, once the bank account showed numbers which removed the worry of money; “I can’t take it anymore, the same thing over and over again – this isn’t a life.”
These weren’t dead end jobs either, these were careers. With multinational companies, banks, leading insurance and technology companies, where the salaries were only outdone by the benefits — and of course, let’s not forget the prestige. And they had already done the hardest part; getting in. Now the only way was up. The responsibilities, job titles, salaries, quality of life would only ever increase so long as they worked hard.
On paper, it was a dream, which made it even harder when trying to rationalise their dissatisfaction; objectively they’re doing well and their future seems bright. So why would they leave? And if they did, what would they do?
Over the years I stood witness to each of my friends, at varying stages, get down, get depressed, build up the courage and eventually leave. Stimulation comes from interest, and liberation comes from fearlessness. Turning their backs on societal pressures is a process of breaking chains they couldn’t see and only feel. Coming out the other side gave them a sense of pride and freedom that only comes when you follow your heart and forget about everything else. Not one of them earns the same amount as they did before, and certainly none of them have anywhere near the same job security. But they are happy. Each one in a different country, chasing some obscure dream on the wrong side of logic, but chasing, fighting, alive.
Times have changed, yet the definition of success is still as narrow as it was before. Horizons have broadened through globalisation, technology and an increase in travel, yet you are only considered a success if you possess the standard checklist: the same handful of careers, salaries, cars, accessories. We promote diversity, individuality but where it really matters, we fall short. These days everyone is trying to ‘celebrate their uniqueness.’ If one truly believed in it, then we would encourage more to apply it to where it matters the most, where they can dedicate their time and energy to something fulfilling.
No respect is given to those who have the courage to turn their backs on the now ‘easy’ route of a white collar profession, to try and forge their own path. Does that not deserve even the slightest bit of respect, regardless of what the outcome may be? When will we start to practice what we preach, and appreciate those who are different? Those who do not conform, but stand strong under pressure, holding on to their vision and chip away at the brick walls closing on them every day. There is never-ending encouragement on thinking outside the box, but the moment a person steps outside of it, we isolate them. Success should be fluid, not a formula.
H. Aga is a traveller and a writer based in the UK. He has worked as a chef, refugee youth mentor and a teacher.