I am moving out of my parents’ house in just nine days. My parents have put a roof over my head for twenty one and a half years and now I’m flying the nest. It is exciting and scary and makes me feel all like a big proper grown-up which, doing a degree where I play dress-up and pretend to be fictional people, is not something I’m too-used to feeling.

Last year I lived in my university’s halls of residence. It didn’t feel permanent. It felt like a nice break where I got to pretend to be all big and independent. This feels real. My life is changing, everything I have learned and done and loved and known has happened in a life spent at home. Now it’s different. Sure, I’ll visit. But I will never truly live in this house again (not unless I end up with no job, no money, and give up all pride).

I have a little sister. Amy. I say little, she’d only months shy of eighteen and it’s really hit me this summer that the image I have in my head – that of a slightly startled twelve year old girl – is very out of date. I think back three years, to entering my second year at college, just where Amy is now, and I can remember only too-well how scared and fragile I felt.

I was surrounded by people telling me I MUST make decisions, that I HAD to plan for the future, and that FAILURE to do so would result in my life not being as great as it could do so now, three years older and not a lot wiser, I just want to take a second to tell my sister, and her friends, and everybody in that situation (and, when they invent time travel, my seventeen year old self) that it is all absolute and utter undeniable wank.

Do you know what happens to people who don’t know what they want from life at seventeen?

Absolutely fuck-all. That’s what.

People can go through their entire life not knowing exactly what they want or where they want to be and they can have the best time, meet the best people, learn more than anyone, and love stronger than other people.

I use my parents as examples; my mother went to teaching to college, worked as a teacher, then decided it wasn’t for her. She now does something that (I think) makes her happy and it is something that leaves her with just about enough time to devote herself to the Oldies Club; a charity she helped found that gives new homes to older dogs. Whilst it doesn’t always make her happy because sometimes things in the dog-world can be unbearably sad, she is so devoted to what she does and she seems to love it with all her heart.

My dad left home and school in quick succession as a teenager. Bopped from job to job. Learned to play the guitar, worked in a yoghurt factory, became a photographer, worked in a mental health hospital, in a school, wrote several musicals, a nativity and then moved on to work with people with special needs. He seems happy. Often stressed, often over-worked. But he does something that lets him do the things he loves.

If you have a plan, then great. Follow it with all your heart. Do whatever it takes to get to where you think you need to be to be happier. But if you don’t know where it is you want to end up, then just keep going, because the only important thing is that you do something. Doesn’t matter what it is. Try anything and everything, because that’s the only way to decide what you like and what you don’t. Never be idyll and never be bored, but never think that one step forwards is the same as landing you on a path you can’t go back on.

It sounds obvious, even clichéd, but it something we could all do with reminding ourselves of every now and then because people can get so hung-up on the final destination that they miss all of the amazing stuff that happens to them on the way there.

So, Amy, whilst you are being told you HAVE to make a decision regarding your future, maybe try asking the people telling you this what they wanted to do at seventeen. Because the answer probably won’t be “I wanted to tell young adults that their lives depend upon the decisions they make today”.

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