If it feels like a prison (or like it might be)... Pls don't do it 😬
This piece was from Steph Jagger's column, Words to the Motherfuckin' Wise, where you can submit your big Q's and she'll jam on 'em for you.
Q: I'm finishing my Bachelors Degree in Engineering this spring. Everyone keeps on expecting me to apply for a proper job, like a two year trainee position for a big company.
For me this feels like a prison, how am I to make a plan that makes the path for two years of my life when I don't feel like I know shit about what I want to do with my life. How am I supposed to figure out these big life questions?
Oh my sweet, sweet grasshopper. In just four sentences you’ve already shown me how smart you are. So, so smart. Mind-blowingly smart. And not just the obvious smart-AF-book-smart that goes along with the achievement of a degree in motherfucking engineering. No sweet grasshopper, you’ve got a burgeoning wisdom that’s way bigger than all that and it’s bubbling just below the surface. I can feel it tucked under the covers, just below your well-worn frontal lobes. In fact, I think it has some answers for you, ones that will help with the questions you wrote.
You see, you’re already on your way to figuring out all the big life questions because you’re asking them. That’s the first step in full-blown adulting (as opposed to the more common form of adulting otherwise known as the I-never-actually-grew-a-pair-and-I’m-still-asleep-at-the-wheel-cuz-I’ve-spent-the-majority-of-my-life-treating-it-like-a-coloring-book-that-I-was-expected-to-stay-in-the-lines-of-as-opposed-to-the-choose-your-own-adventure-book-that-it-actually-is adulting) — ASK BOLD QUESTIONS.
You’ve already got a head start on this but if you want to take it one step further I’d tell you to make those fuckers bolder than bold. I’d tell you to make them the kind of questions that fly outta your mouth already dressed in chains and crushed velvet, like the kind of shit Hendrix would have worn, like the kind of questions Hendrix would have asked. I’d tell you to make this a dedicated practice for the next decade…or four. And when you ask them I’d say, “Go ahead and throw ‘em on the table like you’re gunnin’ to grab the whole motherfucking pot in the poker game that is life.” I’d tell you this because that’s the only way to actually grab the pot, and based on your questions sweet thing, something tells me you’re a wise woman looking for the whole fucking pot and then some, yes?
So we know you’re smart and we know you’re ahead of the game, but I’ve got two other pieces of advice for you grasshopper. Here goes:
Number one – if something feels like a prison (or like it’s going to be a prison) DON’T FUCKING DO IT.
I’m no trained social scientist, I’ve never conducted a focus group with a bunch of inmates, nor have I ever actually chatted with a convict (that I know of), so I can’t say this with absolute certainty but something tells me that being in prison would suck. Something tells me that the slammer is not a place for grasshoppers like you. What I am certain about though my sweet little bug, is that a metaphorical prison, the kind that we lock our very own selves into using other peoples expectations as the bars, yeah…that sucks in the worst way possible. I know this because I spent a handful of hot minutes in a jail cell just like that. It was back in 2007 and I came this close to a metaphorical death in that grey tinderbox.
Oh let’s just be honest, my “almost death” was not metaphorical – I had a shovel in hand and two graves were dug. I was gonna lay my spirit to rest in one and I was gonna toss my emotions in the other. Fuck me if I wasn’t prepping to pace solitary for the next thirty or forty years all dressed up as a zombie, just me and my coloring book and all them rules about staying in between the lines for the rest of my motherfucking life. No thank you. I dug a tunnel out of that shit and here I am on the other side wearing chains and crushed velvet, wrappin’ my paws around the pot and then some.
But I digress, this is about your tunnel, not mine. Let’s move on to the second piece of advice I have for burgeoning hoppers. This one handles the expectation part of the equation:
Number two - I get it. Really truly, I do. Up until now the next obvious step has been…well, obvious AF. After grade four you moved to grade five. After high school you ran down the road to uni. You spent twenty-some-odd years following the path that was laid out for you. And you did it well. You did what you were told. You did what was expected. Sure, you had to make some choices about classes, and friends, and a major, but in reality it was all pretty obvious, easy, inconsequential.
And now my sweet thing, now you’re torn between two sides of the coin. Between your desire to:
a) pick up a machete and hack the fuck out of a path you can call your own because something is whispering to you that there’s nothing better on earth than clearing scrub only to see a path with your name on it appear right before your fucking eyes, and;
b) continue to be told what to do for the rest of your life because that would be safe and easy, and you wouldn’t have to take responsibility or accountability for any of it, not a fucking lick.
And God help you if the latter option doesn’t sound like a motherfucking relief because if shit hits the fan in the middle of the poker game you can blame them. You can stick your bony little finger in the face of every person who told you what you should do, you can assign fault to everyone who held an expectation over your head, and you can walk on down the road like the unlearned, unwise, wildly immature person you “grew up” to be.
Is that clear, grasshopper? Option number one – wise woman. Option two – grub for life.
There’s just one other thing to add my sweet...
Whenever someone tosses an expectation your way, whenever they come forward with “safe and easy” held up on a platter for you — thank them.
They’ve plated that shit up because they love you and they’re trying to help. They see the water coming and they’re throwing you sandbags. Bless their souls. They don’t know that you’re looking for a flood. They don’t see you standing there in deep negotiations with The Universe. They don’t know you’re asking for the pot and then some to hit you with a wave and sweep you away, so you can learn what a real swell is and how you’re gonna ride it. And the only way, my little bug, for the flood to come so you can learn if you’re gonna sink or swim in this glorious life, the only way is if you break the levee.
The only way is if you tell the sandbaggers, “Thank you very much, but its time for the water to rise.” And then it will and you’ll paddle like the wise motherfucker I know you are, you’ll engineer the shit out of things and figure it out as you go, you’ll use your big bold questions like oars and you’ll row your ship to some beautiful shore one motherfucking stroke at a time, all while wearing chains and crushed velvet. Damn you look good when you’re free.
Yours from the watchtower,
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