until about 4pm today, the plan was to board a flight from budapest airport to london stansted tonight. a flight that was booked weeks in advance, that i’m checked into, that will echo my name around a departure lounge 150 miles from where i will be at 8.50pm. i’m en route to austria because i’ve always wanted to see vienna, because it was stupidly cheap, and because i can.
i am armed with a 1.5L bottle of dr pepper, enough GRLCLB t-shirts to keep me working hard, and a cross-that-bridge-when-we-get-to-it absence of clean underwear.
one of my best friends is a dentist. she wanted to be a dentist as long as i’ve known her, she picked her subjects at school to allow her to apply for dentistry, she worked as hard as was required for her to be accepted to study dentistry, she nailed the admissions interview, she grafted through 5 years of uni, she attended endless open days, registered interest in a number of practices, was finally hired, and will begin her dental career in august. she had a plan. and i am so proud of her.
i never had a plan.
for a while i wanted to be a vet. then i thought fashion designer (the countless old croquis complete with an 11-year-old’s idea of haute couture that reside in my bedroom somewhere are a very cute testament to my actual job these days). actress. doctor. professional show-jumper. writer, atelier, artist (again, quite nice realising i would be making baby roobs proud). i picked my subjects at school at the last possible moment, i spent my final year doing advanced music & english because i enjoyed them the most, i decided on a uni course based on what would be the most general/applicable to everything and anything to avoid making a real choice. i spent about 10 years of my life thinking, hoping, i’d wake up the next morning with a life plan and everything would be fine.
this piece is not the culmination of that. this is not to tell you that i’ve finally found my path and that, one day, you will too. this is not a celebration, or an assurance. this is about the realisation that, maybe, we don’t actually need a plan.
there is nothing on this earth constricting you to living life in the pattern that society has deemed ‘normal’. decide to be a doctor at 45, and go & do it. make 400 million for your firm on wall street then decide stocks aren’t really for you. or, do what i did, and realise that there is so, so much more to life than working endless hours in a poky shop for a person that doesn’t appreciate you and that - however you manage it - you’ll find a way to make yourself happy.
too often we are confined, particularly by the education system that so crucially dictates our path to - and within - adulthood, by merely one facet of our being. intelligent children are nurtured for their potential, but their creativity is laid to waste, while children who excel artistically but not academically are so often failed by a system interested only in a human’s profitability and employment prospects. when you realise that being the smart kid - who achieved without trying, was more passionate about the arts than the sciences forced upon them, went to uni purely because it was expected, and gained a coveted degree - simply leaves you with a useless scroll of paper, a guilt complex, and, for most, a crippling student loan debt.
the boy sitting next to me watching the sun set in this so-hideous-it’s-maybe-nice train carriage left school at 16, started a punk rock band, decided to give education another go, again thought it wasn’t for him, went to japan, decided it might be for him after all, graduated with an honours degree, went to new york for an unpaid internship with one of the most renowned photographers on the planet, came home, and forged out a career doing the thing he loves most of all.
when a boy like that tells you life is for living, you listen. when a boy like that tells you that you don’t have to settle, you believe him. when a boy like that says ‘if you wanna go to vienna then we should’, you go.