This past week, I was chatting with a college student. When I asked what she was interested in, the conversation went from casual to intensely personal in a heartbeat. You see, she has no idea and is deeply worried about not knowing what will come after her four years of higher education. However, the thing that scares her most is that she isn’t even sure she wants to be in college, but is still thinking that continuing to get her Master’s is probably the next step.
Whoa up! Someone who isn’t convinced that a college education is what she wants, is actually considering Graduate School?
I would like to believe that this 20-year-old’s story is unique; unfortunately, I know it is not. The most unsettling piece is that she, a girl who has always followed all of societies requirements, did very well in high school, and met all her parent’s expectations, is suffering from pretty severe anxiety, and, during spring break, for the first time ever, was prescribed medication to deal with it.
While we were talking, she mentioned that she felt like she had no option – her parents made it very clear, it was college or else. She also said that her perceptions of the world included choosing a career and sticking with it for her entire work life. You see, that is the environment she grew up in. Both of her parents, as well as most of their social peers, and relatives, have been doing the same thing their whole adult lives. They are all living a planned-out life according to cultural norms.
When I told her, in so many words, that she has been sold a line of bull, and that she actually could deviate from this precisely planned path, she looked at me with an expression of awe, which quickly turned to dismay, terror, and then back to, what I would like to think, hopefulness. She thanked me as she was leaving. My only wish is that this interlude prompts her to explore the world of possibilities, beyond that tiny little box that had been presented to her.
What many don’t quite understand is that another word for plan is control. We try to force those things we think are right (read, normal and accepted). I will always argue that mapping out your life (or even your day) can only lead to angst and eventually acute disappointment. I won’t even get into the proven importance of free play and spontaneity for the development of young (and, let's be honest, older) minds and bodies. We all need the freedom to explore, ponder, and create, to our hearts content, without time limits or a schedule.
Why do you think self-help books, life coaches, retreats, yoga classes, self-actualization and mindfulness workshops are hot commodities? Or, for that matter, why harmful addictive behaviors have ramped up exponentially in the last few decades. People are looking for ways to escape from their overly, planned lives.
The Yogis have always had it right – live in the moment. Be spontaneous! Be content! Simply, sit back and be open to all the possibilities that present themselves - right now. Do not try to force what doesn’t feel right. Trust that your life has a purpose and that you will be guided, where you are most needed, to provide your most honest, talented self. Everything else will fall into place when you are living authentically. No rigid, constraining plan required.
Note: This doesn’t, in any way, mean that you should be lazy or shun effort. In fact, I am saying the opposite. Hard work can, absolutely, be joyful, fun, fulfilling, and exciting, when it comes from a place of truth and genuineness, and is accompanied by a willingness to share your passion with others.
Deep Root Center only has a few openings for next year. Please get in touch if your child is interested in following their interests and exploring a world of possibilities within a safe supportive community.