A couple of years ago I was facing a pressing problem: What to study? Being the overachiever student in class, I ended up not knowing what to do with my life after finishing high school. My teachers had made it clear that the best career paths for me were in medicine or engineering, whereas my family pushed for me to become a lawyer or an architect.
I got told I had “vocation” for these professions; a fact corroborated by every vocational test I did. Yet, I didn’t see myself as a doctor, engineer, lawyer or architect. Instead, I felt scared at the thought that only these kinds of jobs existed for me.
Now, don’t me wrong. I don’t have anything against this kind of degrees. It’s just that, in my case, none of them seemed to fit what I wanted for my life. But being young and believing myself inexperienced, I decided to take my parents’ advice and chose a major in law. To, I must say, disastrous results.
Just over three months had passed when I decided to give up on that degree. Not because I had problems with my classes. But rather because every day I would attend my lessons with only one thought in mind: What the hell am I doing here?
After dropping out of college, I suffered from a mild depressive state. I felt useless towards myself and society, and I lost my desire to achieve anything with my life. My expectations about adult life came crumbling apart. What I had left were broken desires and the realisation that all the effort I had put into my career till then had been in vain.
It was with these feelings and thoughts that I would sit one day at a café. Lonely and uncaring. Disengaged from the world at large. My eyes were tinted red, like a pint of blood. I had been crying quite heavily for a couple of minutes. The cup of coffee in my hand was no more than a distraction, intended to appease my sorrows. And that’s when I felt it. Another hand touching mine. Imprudently taking the cup away and putting it aside.
A man in his forties sat in front of me. He had a serious look, with a slight hint at a smile. I followed his eyes with a languid stare. I had a feeling that I would receive a sermon from this stranger.
“Good afternoon,” he said.
“Good afternoon,” I replied.
“So tell me, who’s the unfortunate soul causing this much distress?”
“If you’re assuming I’m lovesick, I can assure you I am not.”
“Well, at least now I know you are not crying for a boy.”
“What use is there to that? Crying for boys. As if they were worthy of the tears.”
“I see. Then tell me, what is worth your tears?”
“Yes. Life and its fragile continuum. Life and its exhaustive indifference. Ah… Life.”
“I see. Well, I am pleased to have found a young writer.”
“Young writer you say? Please, don’t mock me.”
“I am not trying to. Are you not one?”
“I can assure you I am not.”
“Awww. Such a pity! I feel like you have it in you.”
“Is that what it seems to you?”
“What it seems? Lady, I’m sure!”
I smiled at him.
“Ah, such a pretty smile the one you’ve got.”
“Thanks. I had never been told I sound like a writer.”
“Well, hopefully this won’t be the first and last time you get to hear that.”
“Good, girl. Also, just a little something: Don’t forget that you’re still very young. No need to get overwhelmed by life and its implications just yet.”
“I’ll keep it in mind.”
At this last remark, he got up from the table and smiled, waving his right hand in a parting gesture. And off he went through the door of that café, never to be seen again by me. But his appearance in my life was an important one, for that day I learnt three things:
1. The future isn’t a race. I wanted to be an adult right after high school. I wanted my career to soar, to get a job, move out and so many other things. But I didn’t have a plan on how to accomplish all these things. I didn’t even know the direction I wanted to take in order to start. And that’s how I realised that I had to discover myself before I could uncover the life path I was to walk. The same advice applies to many people. Don’t rush to find your “niche” in this world. Take your time. Live life enjoying the process of finding yourself and take the time to fully savour and enjoy every moment as it comes.
2. It’s okay to feel sad, but don’t let things get over your head. Especially to the point of feeling completely defeated. Smiling before the storm is one of the most rewarding things anyone can do, because it shows optimism. So believe in yourself and in your capacity to achieve your full potential.
3. Whatever you decide for your life, make it a personal choice. It doesn’t matter what others say about you or what they believe you ought to be. What matters is that you live a meaningful life for yourself, remaining loyal to the essence of who you are. Because, trust me, limiting your life decisions to the beliefs and opinions of others won’t let you live for the happiness you deserve.
Thus, after having said this, all I can wish for you is the best. Hoping that in every step of your life’s journey you get closer to the you that you see yourself becoming. And that you never forget to enjoy the whole process.