Infinite possibilities: the oppression of choice

During a short stint of cleaning up our house today (It’s a completely futile endeavor, I’m just too messy) I came across a small little slip of paper that I once found tucked away in a second-hand book I had bought. The image: an airplane over mountains. The text: Infinite possibilities. Such a lovely and simple image with such an encouraging text. But it’s not quite as simple as this image would make it out to be.

That’s why I wanted to share it – for many of us, including myself, it’s actually not been that great growing up with infinite possibilities. No, no, don’t get me wrong, I realize it’s very much a First World Problem – and not having any choices isn’t exactly great either. I should consider myself very fortunately to have loving and supportive parents, a brain that functions above average and have some measure of creativity. I could choose a path and perhaps – just perhaps – make something of myself. And choose I did, continuously, occasionally stopping to stare like a rabbit into headlights, bewildered by the sheer number of options.

After high school, I tried a fashion institute for 2 years, learned how to sew, went to an Art College for 2 years, decided on university to get my bachelor degree in religious studies and then continued to gain my master degree in medieval studies. I then got stuck in office and call center work (‘safe’ and ‘accepted’ jobs) until we moved to the UK in 2008 and I realized I needed to be a photographer. I was 28 at that time and had considered being a librarian, archivist, makeup artist, taxidermist, zoo keeper, vet, painter, office clerk, renaissance specialist, restorer of paintings or works on paper, working for a museum, working for the BBC, working for the Discovery channel, travel journalist, war photographer, potter, printer, fashion designer, illustrator, sculptor, gardener aaaaaand antiques dealer.

It has always struck me as silly that we make our fresh-faced teenagers choose their careers by the age of 11-13.

You’ll have to decide what to be when you grow up. What job you will have, what sort of person you will be. Will you be a parent or would you rather not to be? Will you travel – or will you choose to stay in your home town? Live life securely in a steady job or risk it all on the horses. Work away the hours into the night to realize your dreams of becoming an inventor, artist, musician – without any guarantees for success. Or work 9-5 and enjoy the weekends and holidays.

People will tell you to find your passion – do what you love – find your special talent; yes, I do believe everyone has something to contribute to this world and our society. But it’s not like you can just go camping for a day or two to ‘find yourself’ and whatever it is your are especially good at. Us creatives – I’ll just put myself in that group, because let’s face it, that’s where I belong – will always struggle to find affirmation. Are we actually any good? Are we good enough? What is good enough? And when you do realize what you want to do (there are plenty out there with very similar ‘dream jobs’) will you be able to get hired, be scouted or discovered? The fine line between dreams and realistic possibilities can be razor sharp indeed.

Sometimes I wonder if I should have stuck with an academic path? Or keep an office job? It would have been much safer but I’m willing to bet, not half as much fun! I found out after some trial and error that full-time photography work would not be for me, nor would any other full-time position. I just get distracted too easily. At this time, I think I have a happy balance between photography and antique hunting – the best things being that there was no interview for the position, no stifling corporate culture, no dress code and no annoying colleagues!

What about you? When did you realize what you wanted to do with your brief life? Maybe you’ve still to decide and you find yourself stuck in limbo? In which measure did you decide on the many twists and turns in your life or did they ‘just happen to you’?

 

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