A subjective term, right? Measured by the aspirations and desires of an individual. So why has it been forced into such a narrow tunnel that all current young people must aspire to achieve? Gone are the days of successful originality and happiness. One size must fit all.
It really is no wonder that in amongst the everyday pressures and stereotypes us young people currently face, disengaged and over-sensitive to name a few, the mental health of my generation is at unprecedented levels. A huge one in five of us are currently suffering with either anxiety or depression as a result of this.
I have personal experience with being called over stressed, ironically by the same group of people who rammed the words ‘GCSE’s, A-Levels and University' down my throat for seven years. If I had a pound for every time I would complain about the severe stress I experienced in school and had the warm coffee breath of a teacher reply “but your school years are the best years of your life”, I would be rich enough to not worry about how badly they wanted me to succeed. Not me, them.
But what is this success they so fondly speak of? A queue that never seizes. This bright light at an ever-lasting tunnel. I became so blind sighted to my own desires and aspirations I had no choice but to follow theirs.
Each time every exam season reared its ugly head, I was constantly reminded about how important they were: the key to success, I cannot progress in life without them. Yet, when results had been confirmed and it was onto the next hurdle, they somehow didn’t matter, just a memory in my endless brain of knowledge, or so my teachers thought. I will never forget the first day of sixth form where my own headteacher stood in front of us and bellowed that our future employees will have no interest in the GCSE’s we had recently lost sleep over, they no longer matter. Every piece of work was leading to our inevitable University years, because we would only be the best versions of ourselves if we attended the likes of Cardiff, Oxford or Cambridge. No second thoughts were given to the students who had goals outside of the allocated Russel Group boxes.
As a woman in the 21st century, I feel that the pressure to succeed sits heavier on my aching shoulders. We owe it to the women before us, those who died for today’s opportunities. We must hold our head high, with a degree in our hands and 'CEO' in front of our name. It’s what they would have wanted.
Because who cares about you? Whether your kind, trustworthy and funny? These qualities lie in the footer of your CV, a mere space filler. Everyone just wants to know what you’ve done, where you’ve been, and what you aspire to do next in order to fit this version of success that everyone has a version of.
Everyone but you.