Life-Advice from an 18-Year-Old

The Story of Me Trying to Figure out What I Want to Do with My Life...

The moisture clings to my clothes, dragging the baby hairs from my bun and into my eyes. An unbearable heat buoys lazy flies around my face – their perpetual buzzing like the white-noise of the forest. My back aches; ankles buckling under the weight of the pack that is glued to my back by the copious amount of sweat I’ve accumulated under the trees. A vine twists around my boot, the worn sole covered in decaying leaves. I trip, reaching for the closest tree but instead breaking through foliage, stumbling out into the most beautiful scene. A ravine. An open beauty made of rock and leaf – red and green – completely devoid of human life. A deep rumbling comes from below – underscoring the annoying buzz of insects – the refreshing sound of crystal water, an unstoppable current carrying life. I take it all in, in awe, and fall inwards...

Hi I’m Amy and (as much as I would like to tell you I’m an intrepid explorer and Amazonian tour-guide) I’m just your average 18-year-old wannabe-writer, struggling to make heads or tails of life. I’ve just entered the dreadful period of life known simply as ‘A-levels,’ and I am quickly realising that I can’t stay in the cocoon of life for much longer. In my quest to figure out what the hell I’m going to do with my life, I’ve found myself here – on Vocal – whether that’s to figure out a new way of expressing myself, or simply for procrastination purposes we will soon see, but I hope you come along with me on my journey of self-discovery and flash-fiction.

I hear the door open, the chaotic jumble of calls that echo through, and the clear voice of my assistant ordering a “Mr Johnson” to follow her through to the surgery: to me. I breathe it all in: the clinical cupboards filled with technical equipment – stuff I studied for seven years to know how to use – the wheelie chair and the flecked lino beneath me, the metal examination table and the door as it opens and leads my first patients in. A tall man with greying hair makes his way in, followed by a shorter, shabby-looking, brown haired mutt. Sadie needs a check-up. I run through the motions I know so well from veterinary school, checking her eyes, her ears, her soft padded paws, hoping, praying for no complications. She’s fine. I breathe a sigh of relief as the dog leaves the room and the onslaught of animals begins...

As a kid I always wanted to be a vet. My parents would never let me have a pet and so in retaliation I fixed my future around them. I watched endless documentaries about animal rescue services, zoos, and veterinary practices, but reality hit me hard. You see, in order to be a vet (or a doctor of any kind) you need to have a good understanding of how anatomy works and how much medicine to administer and guess what... (Hint: I’m no good at math or science.) Oh yeah, and it helps if you’re not squeamish. So it was onto career idea number two.

He shows me the room. I know it is a square box, about 16x16 feet max. I know it’s painted entirely an off-beige and the furniture is oaken and bland. I know the sofa is faded and stained and the windows are painfully uncovered, but in my head colours whirl. Tiny crews of thousands strip the walls, painting them colour after colour: maybe red here or yellow there. Maybe even go with turquoise to match that throw I saw online a few months back. I swipe through a catalogue of thousands of sofas, chairs, and pillows in my head, assigning each element their own character and place in the room. With each new item, I tell a story; I create a livable piece of art for him to live in. I jot down my masterpiece and move on, finding a new room from which to draw life out of the walls...

For some reason, the jump from vet to interior designer seemed a logical jump to make – don’t ask me why. I had begun to discover my love of story-telling but hadn’t quite come to the conclusion that writing is a viable way of making a living. I felt that rooms had the capability (when designed properly) to encapsulate a personality and to tell the story of the person who lived there. I experimented with my own room but no one would trust me to ‘preform my magic’ on their rooms and so I slowly lost interest in career plan number two. Instead, I began to focus on what I enjoyed – whether that could support me financially or not. And funnily enough, here I am.

“And action!” the set goes silent, everyone holding their breath as the actor closes their eyes and lets out his monologue; the emotional character-driven speech I crafted over several long weekends and countless steaming coffees. The director watches every movement, scrutinising every aspect of the scene, desperately reaching for perfect realism, encapsulating a story within a screen. The producer stands over their phone, fretting about funding and the post-production process that has barely begun. The lighting and sound crew silently work with the camera, following my unspoken instructions. The runners frantically write notes, make-up runs in with pressed powders, the first AD makes more vocal commands, but they all dance to the tale I’ve woven – trying desperately to capture the world that I created. Meanwhile my job is over and, as I watch, I’m already choreographing the next dance.

I used to be so stressed by the prospect of my future career and what I wanted to do after I left school but what I’ve come to realise is that you don’t have to know what you want to do in life. And no-matter how clichéd it sounds, it’s true. Aspirations aren’t just goals at the bottom of a step-by-step guide that you have to put together yourself, but they are good to have. They give you a direction in which to head; not necessarily a fixed path that is cemented at birth, but a vague reflection of your interests in life and the sort of things you have a passion for. After all, if I was still aiming for the same career goals that I had when I was six, I would be struggling to make my way as the world's first unicorn.

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Life-Advice from an 18-Year-Old
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