In a world that’s constantly evolving in every way, shape and form, it’s hardly surprising that our generation are finding it harder and harder to find their place in society. We go from having our hands held during every waking moment to having to make decisions about what GCSEs to take, to decide which A-levels you want to take, to decide what degree you want to study, to decide which career you want to undertake for the rest of your adult life. Even writing it out is exhausting. To put it simply, it’s ridiculous.
So when I sat down just the other day with a cup of tea in one hand and Amy Poehler’s autobiography Yes Please in the other, I wasn’t quite expecting to have an existential crisis and an afternoon of tears.
In a chapter aptly titled ‘Let’s Build a Park’, Amy truly speaks from the heart, gushing over the incredible cast and crew of a delightful little show you may have heard of, Parks and Recreation. Between reminiscing over moments when she laughed the hardest and times when the show’s future lay in the hands of network execs, Amy explains how “it felt fun and alive and warm”. She goes on to confess that, though all-consuming and stressful as it was, her time on Parks and Rec was “magic” and a “once or twice in a lifetime” experience. Then it got me thinking. Thinking about how we’re constantly pressured to know what we want from life, to know where we want our life to take us. To thinking about our rational but oh-so-shared fear of dreaming big.
When a teacher or a parent asks you at age five what you want to be when you’re older – regardless of gender or race – the answer is always the same. “I want to be a doctor!” “I want to be a firefighter!” “I want to be a dinosaur!” (we all know that person). Perfectly awesome and wonderfully attainable answers. Way to go, five-year-old you! But when you’re at an age where boogers still constitute a nutritious mid-morning snack, the world is a much easier place to live. Perhaps more importantly, your eyes haven’t truly been opened to all the other rad possibilities the world has to offer; I still struggle to comprehend the vast enormity of the adult world as it is. Fast forward 10 years, and ask those same 15 year olds what they want to do when they’re older, and the answers will largely be the same. Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to save a life or battle the elements every day (although you might want to consider having a word with the dinosaur guy on the sly). If it wasn’t for the doctors and the firefighters of the world then who knows what sorry state we’d all be in. You people make the world go round. But I know for a fact that there are so many of us out there who dream bigger.
Thanks to the internet, social media, and the ever-expanding wealth of film and television material, there are more and more opportunities opening up for all of us. But due to the ever-increasing desire for immediate gratification and our innate fear of failure, those opportunities can seem completely out of reach. The people who spend their lives watching musicals and reciting scenes from their favourite film tell people they want to teach Drama, because it’s more acceptable than admitting you want to be an actor. The people who spend their lives reading books and scribbling words about love and loss in their notebook at 2:30am tell people they want to teach English, because it’s more acceptable than admitting you want to write novels for a living. Me? Someone who used to copy her favourite books into her diary word for word and spends hour upon hour binge-watching anything and everything I can, because it’s one of the few things that makes me truly happy? I tell people I want to be a journalist because it’s more acceptable than admitting I want to write screenplays for film and TV. Like I said before, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to transmit your passion for Drama and English to the generations to come, or wanting to share your opinions and beliefs with anyone and everyone through print. But let me ask you this: why did we start lowering our expectations to appease our parents and to save ourselves from failure? When did we start teaching people that it’s wrong to pursue a dream just because it’s a little more risky?
It’s important that we never lose sight of what makes us happy. If there’s a chance that we can do what makes us happy for the rest of our lives and get paid for it at the same time, no matter how small that chance may be, why don’t we take it? Why on earth aren’t more people throwing caution to the wind? Live the life you want to live, not the life that other people want you to live. Sure, you might fail, and if that happens then there’s plenty else for you to throw your beautiful, intelligent, and general badass self in to. But you might succeed. When you dream big it can be scary as hell. All of a sudden it feels like there’s so much more at stake if something goes wrong. If Amy Poehler taught me anything, it’s that it’s okay to be afraid of your dreams so long as you don’t let the fear cloud your vision.
Now, I’m aware that this has taken a very serious turn, and so I would like to return to the wonderful lady who inspired me to chuck this piece together in the first place. One of my favourite quotes from Yes Please is very deep and meaningful, and I’m pretty sure everyone can relate to it, so I shall leave you with this:
“I recently hurt myself on a treadmill and it wasn’t even on.” – Amy Poehler
Words by Sophie Mace.