Distant dreams of a millennial teen

The millennial generation is overworked to say the least. Almost all of us have an inferiority complex, and with the constant presence of social media we can’t avoid persistently comparing ourselves to our peers. There is no easy route to any profession and the future is full of more uncertainties than ever before.

As a kid, I grew up dreaming of becoming an artist. Somewhere in my mind I knew it wasn’t a real job, but I loved life, and that’s all I wanted to do: live, and create art.

We grow up being told to do what we love, but are gently steered by our parents to activities and subjects that are “more practical in life”. Of course we are never told directly what to do, but guilted into paths seen as worthwhile by our parents and teachers.

I remember the first qualification I completed was in my final year of primary school. Admittedly, it was not difficult or was any real level of intelligence needed to complete it, but it was still a nationally recognised award. I started my second qualification in my first year of secondary school, and before I even started my GCSE’s I had 3 Qualifications. Was it really necessary to be put under so much pressure so early on?

Our schooling may be much less strict than it was for previous generations but that’s not to say it is any easier. We are forced from a young age to choose a career to start working towards, or to at least start preparing for the future with unnecessary courses, qualifications, and extra curriculum activities (DofE, I’m looking at you).

A realisation that my dreams may just be that, led me to give up on them for most of my adolescents. I let go of what I loved and instead aimed to please the people around me with half decent grades, and lowering my expectations to working a 9-5 office job, slowly working my way up the ladder to management like my mother had.

But to even achieve that it’s no longer just about good grades, it’s everything else you do on the side too. To be average is simply not good enough. I completed my A-levels and went to university for a year but eventually dropped out at the end of first year after realising I needed to give pursuing my passions a go at least once. I assumed my A-levels and experience from voluntary work would be enough to help me secure an average job whilst I figured out my next step. Little did I know they meant nothing. Almost every job required GCSE’s or a degree as a minimum, A-levels never came into it. Most unskilled jobs require GCSE’s and almost anything above required a degree (that, or a lifetime of experience).

The truth is a degree is the new minimum if you want to go any further than an unskilled job. That or knowing people who can pull the right strings and contact the right people for you. So once again my dream of breaking into a creative industry was shattered.

Aiming high and willingness to work is not the issue here, it’s the lack of resources available for someone from a small ex mining town like myself. If I was from a city, even with my economic status I’d probably have better chances. At least there’s some funding for arts and culture in a city, when the whole sector is little more than a second thought for a town like mine.

Whilst my own town offers no support for the arts or culture outside of its dusty museum, my closest city does. But more than often funding opportunities or awards are conditional and you must be a resident of the city, leaving people like me in the surrounding areas unable to make their passion project into anything else.

Even now, on my fourth job, I haven’t progressed up the career ladder or even moved into my preferred industry despite my endless voluntary work, self made projects, and completing extra training and courses all to show my passion for an industry I’ll probably never break into.

This isn’t to say you should be completely hopeless, but aware of the struggle ahead of you. To say all my hard work has been in vain would just be not true. Although it perhaps hasn’t paid off as much as I had hoped, it has definitely helped me get somewhere closer to my goals. Remember, persistence is the greatest skill you’ll ever learn, so keep on trying. When you stop trying is when your dreams truly become out of reach.

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