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Alix Long Headshot

The Future

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This week, instead of droning on and on about the supposed 'rights' and general 'bad aspects' of teenage life, I have decided to jolly things up a bit and drift over to a supposedly optimistic subject to most teenagers. So here's hoping I will achieve my objective: to share my limited pearls of wisdom and give the adults and young people out there an image of 'The Future' (yes, it's so important that it needs capital letters and inverted commas).

Now, 'The Future', when you say it like that, kind of sounds like a huge scary void of bills and jobs and waking up early to feed screaming babies, at least it does to me. I guess it's a bad thing that in today's society 'The Future' is not seen as something positive or aspiring, but instead something you have to prepare for with a trillion exams and work experience.

Oh, work experience. The time in every teenager's life when you find yourself a placement in a job you're never going to actually get in real life, and get your first real cup of coffee. For a while it seems great; you can wear your own clothes, get a different form of public transport and go to the toilet any time you fancy, but soon enough you start thinking to yourself, 'I'm actually going to have to do this every day when I'm bigger'. Funnily enough, it suddenly stops being so fun then, and filing has a whole new meaning.

That's the thing about 'The Future'. It's horribly cliched, but it really is true. When you're younger you can't wait to grow up but when you're older you realise that growing up is slightly more... complicated to say the least. There are suddenly costs involved, a reputation to upkeep, and still people judging you on your choice of career.

Let me give you an example. Last week I had my Careers Interview, which is an interview at my school with a senior member of staff to talk about the suitability of your post-sixteen choices in order to succeed in your chosen career. The options part was pretty simple, and I could talk fairly freely about my choices seeing as they were considered 'quite sensible', but then I got asked the question that no teenager ever wants to be asked. If you're a teenager, you'll know what I mean, but if not, the question is, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?'

I honestly didn't know what to say. On one hand, they might commend me for the originality of my desired career choice, though on the other more dominant hand most of the girls in my year had previously told their interviewer that all they wanted to be was a lawyer, doctor, nurse, teacher... when all I want to be is a writer.

So I'll apologise if I have failed the world of teenage writers out there, but I panicked. I told the Head of Sixth Form that I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. Big mistake. As soon as I said it I regretted it, and what was worse was that after this garbage had came out of my mouth, a flurry of equally intrusive questions followed about the details of this selfless choice of career.

So here's a question for you: what was the reason I couldn't say that I wanted to be a writer? Was it because I was shy? Scared of the reaction? It was unusual? Or was I ashamed to admit it? I've got a theory: I didn't want to admit it because it simply isn't a career that us teenagers are being encouraged to do.

When talking to young people about 'The Future', there are clear options available to us: get good grades, go to university and get a well recognised and credited job. There aren't many conversations about embracing your talents and making the most out of what you've got, especially when you're young.

So if you're a teenager, and reading this, please do not fret. 'The Future' doesn't need to be scary, or alarming for any reason, it just needs to be met. The message from adults is somewhat confused at the moment, but if we learn to use our talents and try our best at everything we do we can succeed in anything we put our mind to.

As for me, when I'm older I have made a pledge to forget the suit, the early morning rush hour and the incessant coffees from Starbucks... and simply pick up a pen.