There are times as we come of age, especially in college, that we are pressured by our surroundings to find our purpose in life. Whether it is family members trying to get us to choose a major in college that will yield more career opportunities, church culture telling us to follow God and have a relationship with Jesus, or even someone we are dating trying to move the relationship towards marriage. In all of these things, although none are inherently bad, we are pressured to move forward, regardless if we are ready to or not.
Many of the happiest people I know in their 20’s don’t have 5 or 10 year life plans. They live each day, understanding how delicate and ever-changing life can be, and accept they may not have many answers for what lies ahead. Granted, this lifestyle can be problematic if taken too far, but there is something to admire about the freedom it brings. I have not lived my life in such a way – I have succumbed to many pressures and have allowed others to, essentially, life my life for me at certain times.
What causes us to put pressure on others and what causes our surroundings to pressure us? A variety of things, I think. Perhaps the biggest is the fear of failure others have for us and we have for ourselves. Because my parents wanted me to have a better life than they did, they weren’t the most excited about my Philosophy undergrad and my choice to go to seminary. Oh, well.
Another somewhat related cause is the priorities society has for what “an ideal life” is for an individual. In antiquity, a Philosophy degree would have helped me to be more ethical and virtuous and, thus, I would have been considered to be living one of the best lives possible. Now, I am a snowflake because my degree is non-tangible and I’m not set up to make a lot of money. Society today has deemed money (financial security), aesthetics, and a few similar things as necessities to the good life. Society’s got us pinned!
What can we do? At times, recognize that people around us generally want to help us and are trying to give us useful advice. Other times, fight for our individuality have the confidence to choose things contradictory to what others think is best for us. It is a difficult balance to strike but a necessary one.