I recently talked to a Korean friend of mine. He’s 19 years old now, that means he’s entering the age where people will start demanding from him to start being productive and do something with his life. And by “something” I mean, of course, something they want him to do and by “something they want him to do”, I mean of course, work or study.
Studying not as a way of helping mankind, not as way of understanding more about life, about our universe, your body, your mind or about how things work, but as way of satisfying society’s hunger for predictability and doing just what you are expected to do, to keep things predictable, play by the rules and make sure everything stays the same. That the rich stay rich, the poor stay poor and the foolish stay foolish.
And working not as a way of helping others, but as a way of helping yourself. Everyone around you wants to make sure you get a job and make just enough money to pay the rent, food and pay for a bunch of things you don’t need.
The amount has to be just the right one, if you get too little money you may get sick or depressed, being unable to keep working, if you get too much you may try to escape the loop of working-getting little money-spending that little money-working again- getting little money again-spending that little money again-working again..
Same as a dog, they have to make sure you are kept on a short leash, giving you enough money and freedom so that you won’t complain but not too much so that you will run away.
So coming back to my Korean friend, we were in a group, so other people, after learning he had just finished high school, understandably wanted to know what’s he gonna do after, because he has to do something, right? He can’t do nothing. We all have to do something. Something that keeps the machine running, something that keeps the money flowing.
So his scrips would go something like this:
“When I finish, I’m gonna go to the army, then I’m going to study business administration, and then I’m going to find a job at a company”
Now, there’s nothing strange with this, that’s what most Koreans would say at his age when people ask them what are they going to do after high school. It’s just what’s expected. Graduate then work at the company.
The problem is that this guy has dreadlocks, wears Jamaican colors, and looks and talks like he’d rather be playing ukulele in costa rica, than going to the army and business school.
So I remembered what my script was when I was his age, and it was, surprisingly enough, pretty much the same as his.
I used to say whatever people around me wanted to hear just so that they’ll leave me alone, and sometimes I almost believed it.
Sometimes I almost believed that was what I wanted to do, just because it was what they were expecting me to do.
Sometimes I almost believed I had to do something just because everyone else did.
And then when people found out I had the chance of going to Spain, and they asked me what I was going to do after. I remember myself saying “I’m going to save some money in Spain, then come back to Argentina and start some business or buy a house here”. That one was not only the answer everyone was expecting to hear, but also the only answer I knew, the only thing I thought it was possible doing then.
When I was 19, I couldn’t have said “I’m going on a trip for the rest of my life” because no one would have understood it, and neither had I of course.
When I’m a guy and I’m 19, I’m trying to figure out what’s going on with my body, why do I want sex, why do I like breasts. Why do I have so much energy, Why do I feel like fighting.???
And trying to figure out what’s going on with my mind, why do I cry? Why do I feel lonely? Why do I feel unfulfilled? Why do I feel confused? Why do people look at me weird? Am I special? What’s the meaning of life? Why am I alive? Why do I exist? Why am I so paranoid? Why do I hate everyone? Why do I hate myself?
And on top of that everyone around you expecting you to have everything figured out already, and not only know what’s going on with your body and mind but also to know or “choose” what is that you want to do during the rest of your life. And to give them a detailed explanation of why have you chosen that and how are you going to pull it off.
Now I’m 27 and still haven’t quite figured out what’s going on with my mind, what I did learn though is that every day we get a million new different thoughts and ideas, what I want to do now is not the same I wanted to do 10 minutes ago, assuming there’s even something I wanted to do.
Change is unavoidable and next week I will probably have radically different thoughts and ideas from the ones I have today, and so on.
So the advice I would give to that friend of mine and to the 19 years old me through space-time continuous, is not to worry too much, take life day by day, try to enjoy the moment, because today there are so many things going on, and you’re missing them by trying to plan everything in advance.
There’s is no future, it’s an illusion, there’s just today and you are missing it.
Maybe you can plan today what you want to do tomorrow or next week, but don’t bother on planning next month, because you will be a totally different person then.
Sure your family and most adults you meet everywhere will want to know what are you going to do for the rest of your life, but you are 19 already, so it’s time you understand that “I have no idea” its a perfectly valid answer to any question in life.