Being pressured to decide your future as a 16–year–old

By Sydney Elias

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a commonly asked question to kids with no expectation of a realistic response. Young children have the luxury of using their full imaginations, hopes and dreams to answer this dazing inquiry: astronauts, princesses, superheroes and more. 

At some point in life, an acceptable response shifts from pertaining to the inner, imaginative, little kid, to a legitimate reality. High school students are faced with the pressure of deciding their futures as teens with virtually no experience in the “real world.” 

In my case, this pressure consumes me on a daily basis. I constantly fall into a dark rabbit hole of never-ending thoughts and fears regarding my future. 

I have to do well in high school to get into a good college. I have to get into a good college to get a good job. I have to get a good job to be successful and wealthy. I have to be successful and wealthy to be happy, and if I fail to obtain happiness, then I failed my path and will be condemned to a life of eternal gloom and misery. 

Although I know these dramatic consequences will not affect me to this extreme, it sure does feel like it. 

The stress of deciding what classes to take, especially during junior year, takes over my mind as I know that taking the right mixture of classes is an important factor in college

admissions. The feeling of impending doom follows me as I contemplate a career in science versus a more creatively liberating career in English, particularly writing. 

Not knowing what to do with my life is scary, but it is normal, especially as a 16-year-old in high school. Change is inevitable. Life choices take time. No one is expected to innately know what their path will be. 

Rather than sitting around and waiting to have a career epiphany, students should inform themselves of the countless possibilities the world has to offer. The best thing to do is explore different topics, explore interests and know that no one is locked into anything. 

Focus on what needs to be done in order to become a well-rounded, experienced and intelligent person who will excel, regardless of any chosen profession. Remember that while it is important to make thoughtful choices, none of the career decisions that are made in high school will permanently change the trajectory of the rest of a student’s life. These decisions are reversible. 

Now when I am asked, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I know that the little girl in me will never become an astronaut, a princess or a superhero, but I recognize that I still have time to decide what I will become and instead focus on the path of exploration.