A complicated look at uncomplicated topics to ameliorate your day.
If you have been anywhere near or in an educational institution in the last twenty years, the chances are that you have heard the Accepted Wisdom about your Future. How it was dressed up is largely influenced by how much your parents paid in school fees and the religious alignment of the place, but by and large the core message remains the same.
The Accepted Wisdom about your future is that you will go to university and undertake and complete a degree. The Accepted Wisdom is that this will be in an area that has a secure job prospect at the end. If university is not really your thing then the Accepted Wisdom says that you will immediately commence a trade, attend a TAFE or other form of higher education and gain yourself a qualification that will lead to employment.
The Accepted Wisdom is that a secure job or career will provide you with other secure things such as a house, a purpose and the knowledge you need to live a secure life. The Accepted Wisdom is that by following this path, you will learn everything you need for life.
The Accepted Wisdom is incredibly hard to fight against, in the face of uncertainty, when we lack the confidence to follow our heart or believe in our abilities or dreams, the Accepted Wisdom presents itself; a safe cocoon of knowledge, economic stability and known outcomes that promise a secure future. When we’re seriously freaking out it is about as irresistible as a Victoria’s Secret model or Ryan Gosling, you just can’t say no. And it is most often peddled by the people in our lives whom we respect and look to for advice – parents, teachers, career counsellors, family members and often even friends. Disagreeing with the Accepted Wisdom would mean disagreeing with them and often the way they’ve chosen to live their life, so it’s just easier to go along with the Accepted Wisdom rather than start WWIII with any of them.
Interestingly enough, whilst the Accepted Wisdom for blokes has been relatively the same for the past few thousand years; learn, hunt, gather, provide, reproduce and repeat – give or take a few changes of landscape from agrarian to industrial to corporate, it has changed recently for women; from marry, reproduce and rear to learn, provide, work and still marry, reproduce and rear. Which tends to hint at the fact that the Accepted Wisdom is influenced by the cultural and social movements of the time but doesn’t always have all of the answers…just ask any woman currently trying to ‘have it all’.
Look around you. If you are sitting in a library, or a classroom or on public transport, look closely at the people near you. Do they look like you? Have they experienced the same things as you in life? Do they hope for the same things in the future?
Unless you are sitting next to your identical twin, the answer will be no. Because each person on earth is a unique being. Granted, we share commonalities with others, but each of us is our own autonomous person. So it is curious that the Accepted Wisdom is the blueprint for every one of us.
And yet, we constantly hear – go to university and do a course that will make you employable and then get a job in that field and accumulate all of the regular items that go with it; house, partner, nice car, children, pet and so forth.
The Accepted Wisdom very rarely says take a gap year, spend your savings on holidays not houses, make friends with people you don’t know, do what you love and keep doing what you love, visit places the people you know have never been, value your happiness and seek out new experiences that scare you and challenge you – not once but always, quit your job and follow your heart instead, say what you mean, fall in love and dive in head first, buy a ticket and never return.
These decisions take courage and self-belief. They can be scary, they are challenging, they are different. Unlike the Accepted Wisdom, they involve the unknown and uncalculated risk and they do not provide an exact and measurable outcome.
What we so often miss is that these things provide you with something worth more than any Accepted Wisdom could ever give you. They are scary and discouraged by the Accepted Wisdom because people having these experiences shine a mirror back on those practicing the Accepted Wisdom, and they reflect the unhappiness and lack of personal and spiritual fulfillment in this way of living.
Put simply. There is so much more to life than the Accepted Wisdom, and it starts by travelling out of your known world of experiences and seeking something more.
You can spend three years learning about Ancient Egypt and archaeology, but until you are standing in the Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak you will never fully appreciate the sheer magnificence of their achievements or the extraordinary vision of Ramses II.
You can spend fifteen years studying carpentry and constructing buildings, but until you are standing in the shadows of the Colosseum you will never appreciate the value of a crane, a bob cat and your nail gun.
You can spend three years studying politics and the functions of modern democracy, but until you are standing in front of King John’s tomb in Worcester Cathedral, the Magna Carta at Runnymeade or even the Declaration of Independence in Washington DC you will never gain the perspective to understand how our system has evolved from and operates within this centuries old narrative.
You can profess opinions after reading every newspaper and journal article about the Israeli-Palestine conflict, but until you meet with the people that live there you will never truly grasp the nature of their experience and existence.
You can spend ten years saving for a house deposit and another thirty paying off your mortgage, but until you stand in Dharavi, a shanty town in India, you will never appreciate the value of it.
You can spend twenty years accumulating wealth and possessions but until you visit Bhutan, where the GDP is measured in happiness and not dollars, you will never really understand what truly matters in life.
You can meet thousands of people who live in your country and share experiences similar to yours who confirm that who you are being right now is acceptable, but until you meet people from all over the globe, and understand your place within this world, you will never truly know who you really are and who you could be.
The Accepted Wisdom is there to show you one path. To show you the way that some people chose to live their life. But that feeling of excitement in your tummy, that beaming grin of anticipation on your face, the tingling in your toes when you think of all of the possibilities the world holds for you? That is the innate wisdom you were born with; you know there’s more out there than that, now go and get it.