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Adolescent aspiration vs. adult realization: Why life plans never work out

Childhood dreams

Every child has wondrous dreams and expectations; each filled with fantasy and adventure. From a young age, we all wish for fantastical adventures and escapades: I had visions of a career in geology or of following my dad into architecture. Yet slowly, as the years ticked by, creeping realization stole these fanciful notions from me as I displayed no aptitude for either the sciences or the intricate mathematics required to succeed in designing buildings.

Instead, I buried my nose in endless books, novels, magazines, and newspapers. Naturally, with my age ticking into those troublesome teenage years, the notion of journalism was suggested to me, and so I latched on to this, steadfast in my belief that I would one day be reporting on the things happening around us. To this, I held on to many naïve beliefs, some almost embarrassing when viewed in hindsight. Among these was the conviction that I would gracefully and almost instantly transform from schoolboy to successful writer was something undoubtedly fueled by the rather idyllic middle-class setting of my youth. And so, as is customary with almost all adolescents, I began the earnest trudge through GCSE’s and A-Level, still convinced of my destiny yet never seeming to come any closer to grasping it. Having achieved solid (if unimpressive) grades throughout my spectacular (if unstable) academic career, it seemed that university was the next step in my grand plan.

It was at this point that my story, like so many others, began to twist and turn in ways impossible to predict. With politics as my chosen subject, I set off for university with idealistic, utopian views of how life would go on from there. Yet a year in, I had almost surrendered my university dreams – having spent the vast majority of my time working in a bar and the other part attempting to avoid my rather incompatible flatmates, the dreams I had so carefully constructed throughout my untroubled childhood were quite plainly hanging by a thread.

This is not to say that the end of your dreams is the end of dreaming. Having recollected myself and considered my options, I resolved to continue, and so switched course to English Language and set about making the most of the years reprieve I had been granted. Sometimes, the death of certain aspirations and goals can prove to be the greatest blessing of all. Slowly, I revived my dreams, yet they did not perhaps evolve as expected, if still thrillingly. It was this that I slowly, over the course of my next two years at university, reignited the passion I’d held as a wide-eyed schoolboy. Writing, that fear-inducing action reserved only for last-minute essays gradually became a joy again, as my voice emerged from the drudgery and constraints of a strict and formal education system.

My time at university has meant four years, two degrees, soul-crushing late nights in the library, gut-wrenching early mornings in lecture halls, and some of the most amazing moments I will experience. I would never have predicted how my time as a student, for the first time separate from the shelter of my parents, would have unfurled. While, at 22, it is far too soon to suggest my life plans have altered dramatically, I have most definitely gained an understanding of the realities of adult life: the lurking fear of financial implosion, of cleaning, of caring for yourself. In addition, gradual maturity has brought with it changes to my uncomplicated life plan; upon completion of university and earning of necessary funds, travel is an essential part of my future. The cumulative pressures of a lifetimes education have left me in need of a new view, a new experience; as a kid, the idea of exploring new places never dawned on me, I was so inculcated into the normal pattern of education then job then marriage then children that seemed so prevalent for so many as I grew up.

While I am far too young to be passing on any useful life advice, I think it is important to consider Steinbeck’s famous line, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Predicting the future is a futile and pointless exercise; enjoying the present situation, no matter how slow, how tepid, will always prove more enjoyable than wishing for futures that shall never come.

About the Author

James Ayles

James is a third year English Language student at Cardiff University and works as a TV Production Runner. In his spare time, he enjoys sailing, football, and world cinema. He aspires to become a comedy scriptwriter.