Many people have a mid-life crisis. The United Kingdom looks to be in the throes of its own right now. As students across the world approach the end of their schooling this summer, a sizeable number will be pondering their next choice in life. Just as the middle aged have the mid-life crisis, I want students to understand the value of the pre-life crisis.
The pre-life crisis means that, before you really have any major financial or familial responsibilities, you are thrown into a den of confusion about what to do for the rest of your life - or at least, how to make the best start to your professional life. "What do I want to be", is the refrain rolling around the more or less drunken/drug addled mind of many a university student. Apprentices, I imagine, are a bit more certain of what's next.
Whilst a few will soon be embarking on a journey to become the next Mark Zuckerberg, most of us are not gifted with preternatural skills. We are good, some of us excellent, but most span a scale of general competence without being the stuff of the next GQ or WIRED cover. The first stage in the pre-life crisis is this very realisation - that is, shock.
Your parents are wrong. You are not super gifted. You might be just above average but chances are you are just what it says on the tin - average (most of us have got to be). In stage one of the pre-life crisis, this hits us like a bat out of hell. Once you put down your latest impulse buy (C+ for Beginners), it's time to face facts and look at your other options.
Stage two - confusion - is equally disconcerting. All those careers fares, and all those summers spent interning at whatever slick outfit offered the most money, come flooding back. Do I really want to be a banker/lawyer/accountant, one asks. Even if you don't, you think you'll do it for a couple years to earn a little money before funding that dream. You WILL be the next Zuck.
Forget it big shot. It's not going to happen for the vast majority of people reading this blog. That sort of mind-set will see you mired in misery, well on the way to a mid-life crisis.
Once you accept this - stage three - then your choice narrows down to two things. Either choose something wacky that you love to do or find a way to be happy being an average worker in a white collar job. That all hinges on stage four.
Random crap. Random crap is that thing(s), whether evident or not, that you really want to try your hand at. It could be anything from politics to crochet to craft brewing. Without focusing too hard, think about a few things that capture your interest and give it a go. If it works out, great! If not, at least you tried it and it might develop into a fulfilling hobby. In either case, you won't be filing into the office in a few months with a cloud hanging over your head because you regret never taking a punt on something random.
Take me as an example. I'm smart without being the next Stephen Hawking. I'm in ok shape but no Abercrombie and Fitch model. I can be entertaining but you won't see me with my own YouTube channel making millions wet their pants with laughter.
I always thought I would become a lawyer. That was 'that plan'. Well the plan sucked. Shuffle paper all my life? No thanks - f*** you system! Oh wait, I need a job... So I left university in 2010 without a job lined up, moved in with my parents and started selling mobile phones. Great way to put that university degree from Scotland's best university to use, right?
After dawdling around for a bit longer, I alighted on training for the British Army. It sounded like a challenge. So, I thought, what the hell. I had leapt through the stages to random crap. Long story short, I found myself driving through the gates of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in January 2012.
It never really suited me. Within 4 months, with blisters heavily infected and nauseating to look at, I was given a few weeks off to get a grip, recover, and get back to the training. So I joined Twitter. Why not? Another long story short, I saw a tweet for a gay marriage campaign, volunteered to get involved, found myself representing that campaign live on Sky News in a matter of weeks before then being hired onto a UK parliamentary campaign to do the hard work of making a shouty campaign actually translate into a law. In July 2013, the legislation passed and I was out of a job (again).
I'm now happily employed in the field of political communications. Looking back, I've joined the dots between my interests - my love of politics and my penchant of shooting my mouth off. Thank God for the pre-life crisis! If I hadn't taken a flamethrower to the plan and indulged in some random crap, I would be very unhappy.
It's then the final stage of the pre-life crisis kicks in. Wisdom. Yes, the world lionises the likes of Zuck, Jobs and Gates. But the world is filled with average people. When average people come together, united by a passion to do something, they can achieve great and lasting change. In a world full of depressing hurt and pain, it's important to remember that. One average person doing random crap can spark a multitude of people to make positive change a reality. In my own small way, that's what I did on the gay marriage campaign.
What are you waiting for? Get shocked, realise your average, and start your own journey down the pre-life crisis track. If you don't, you'll soon be carrying too many responsibilities to throw it all to the wind and ran slap bang into a depressing mid-life crisis.