When you are a child, you are constantly told not to do things. Don't eat with your mouth open. Don't play with your food. Don't talk to strangers. I used to question why adults always told us not to do things, why they had the power to say 'don't', but were allowed to do so themselves. I assumed that with age came freedom, that I would outgrow childhood, and with it, outgrow people giving me instructions about the right and wrong way to live my life. But I was wrong.
When I was fifteen, we started to have careers meetings at school; discussions about which A-levels we were thinking of choosing, which universities we would be applying to and ultimately which career path we wanted to follow. We underwent psychometric testing (the results of which were extremely questionable considering my straight-A-student friend was told she should become an afro-caribbean hairdresser). We all laughed at the time, but ultimately that sentence summarises everything that is wrong with careers advice. Just because you are a straight-A-student doesn't mean you shouldn't become an afro-caribbean hairdresser if that is the path which you want to follow. And on that note, why are we trusting such an ambiguous piece of computer software to make important life decisions for us anyway? I sat down in my careers meeting, in front of my form tutor and told him I wanted to go to the best art school in the world (a pretty ambitious dream by most peoples standards), to which I was asked 'are you really sure that's the right choice?', and to which I replied 'yes'. How else would I pursue a career within the art/design/film/fashion industry if I was unable to study the subjects that would educate me in this field? Because I went to private school and was predicted A*'s in Chemistry and Maths, it was seen as a failure or a cop out to pick these 'soft options', to pursue a career which did not solely rely upon academic credentials. I was asked to consider a different career path, to rethink my choice, to 'keep my options open', but I stuck to my guns and with the help of supportive parents and the backing from my art and graphics teachers I was allowed to study the A-levels that I wanted.
For the two years that followed I was told on an almost daily basis that I was only succeeding and achieving the grades I was achieving because I chose 'easy subjects'. Aspiring medics looked down on me for wanting to attend art school, and my stress was never placed on the same level as anyone else's due to the nature of the subjects I took. It did not matter when I achieved 100% in both my art and graphics A-level, it did not matter when I received an unconditional offer from the art school I dreamed of, and it did not matter when I received an award for outstanding academic achievement and the subject prize in graphic design, because ultimately the subjects I took were not 'real subjects'. Eventually, if you are told something too many times, these voices of judgement can cloud and drown out your own voice. Don't let them. Go after your dreams no matter how unattainable others think they are.
So I got thinking: what gives someone else the right to take anyone else's dream away? Just because you are aspiring to a different dream than me doesn't make yours any more important. Whatever your dream may be, no body has the right to tell you you can't; it is guaranteed that at some point someone has thought up something crazier and succeeded. If no one thinks you can, then you have to, not just to prove them wrong but to prove yourself right. It is better to try and fail than to never have tried at all. To never have tried means to never have failed, but to always live in regret and wonder 'what if'. If you try and don't succeed, at least you can live in the knowledge that you tried your best.
People telling me I couldn't made me more adamant to prove that I could and I would. (And I did). Remember: at first they will ask you why, then they will ask you how. Nothing comes easy, but hard work will always pay off. It is so easy to see someones success, see them at the end of the road and assume that you will never be able to get to that place. If you never saw the struggle it took for them to get there, of course their journey will seem easy. But it wasn't, because if it was easy, everyone would have it. Those not determined enough to put in the work required will always find an excuse as to why you found your success when they didn't.
So now I've reached adulthood, I'd like to add a few 'Don'ts' of my own. Don't live your life for anyone but yourself. Don't make choices based on any opinion other than your own. Don't live someone else's dream. 'For in dreams we enter a world that is entirely our own'.