The Big Wide World; a phenomenon looming above the heads of children making their way through schooling and development. The ambiguity of the concept is alarming – overwhelming almost – should we fear this world into which we will be thrown? Should we be excited? Do we take the leap and hope that we land feet first?
For a student yet to experience the pressures of life after secondary school, the world of business and responsibility seems a novel concept; the extent of our professionalism of conduct and lifestyle only stretches to longline blazers and a pair of loafers, where chequered chinos and the top button done up should get us any job. At what point does this novelty turn into a harsh reality we must face? My answer: I don’t know – I’m still privileged to be in the safety and protection of school.
The truth is: we are scared. Whilst ‘growing up’ seemed to be the carrot on a stick throughout childhood, the idea of facing the real world is still terrifying; no matter how much we willed time forward, adulthood remained miles ahead of us, yet now it is encroaching faster than we had ever anticipated, and it feels that we are far from equipped to battle the challenges of the world we will be thrown into.
Whether life after secondary school takes the form of further education, going straight into work, or anything in between, it is undoubtedly a huge jump for students to make. Whilst school can assist in the preparation for such a transition, there is only a point to which our teachers and mentors can equip us; perhaps it is the letting go of such an unconditional support system that shapes us in our development. Many a time, young adults will be advised and discouraged through the ‘regrets’ of influential adults in their lives, and often reminded that ‘If I could go back and do it all again, what I’d do differently…’, building a framework for us to believe we will also regret this fundamental period of our lives.
To reconstruct this blueprint, what could parents, teachers, and role models do to reassure us that we will not come to regret the majority of our childhood? And so, I encourage you to consider that which you do not regret; the parts of your youth and growth that you cherish; the experiences you wish for following generations to be granted. In sharing these, I believe that young adults can find direction, rather than deterrence from futurity.
As an extremely academically oriented individual, the course of university seemed an obvious choice and, upon reflection, the choice which will buy me the most time to further prepare for what I must face in adulthood. Though I have my life post-university meticulously planned out, the uncertainty of the future alarms me, for evidence would lead me to believe in the unlikelihood of such a future playing out according to plan. I think this is one of the most challenging concepts we must face; from our first day in the educational system, we have been held to a regimented schedule, to the point where we eat, drink, and sleep in alignment with times handed to us on a piece of paper at the start of the year. With this being said, how do we escape the routine provided throughout adolescence and embrace a less structured way of life, such as that of the bigger world?
Another social norm that I wish to challenge is the importance placed on monetary value; it appears to be that, in growing up, generations lose the value of genuine enjoyment and passion, replacing joy with mere satisfaction at ‘sufficient pay’ and ‘tolerable working conditions’. Though my wish may seem impractical and overly optimistic, I believe that society will greatly benefit from the continuation of pursuing interests rather than salaries, a mindset which is definitely present amongst younger children. I would argue that the transition to adulthood promotes destructive realism in the place of imaginative optimism and aspirations, a trait that, if unhindered, will drain youthful hopes and dreams with a sole view to make money.
When thinking about this progression through life, I am reminded of the poem ‘Mother Any Distance’ by Simon Armitage; though it deals with the growth of children away from parents rather than the educational system, I believe that the premise is similar. Moving on to the next stage of life comes with risks, but lest we fear these, for if we do so we are limiting ourselves regarding the ‘endless sky’ of opportunities that exist if we allow ourselves the liberation to embrace adulthood. From this perspective, the move into the big wide world appears a universal experience; one that, though not risk-free, should be seized with enthusiasm and excitement, and whilst writing this article, I think I have concluded that I am ready to do just that.
Manor School is part of the Nene Education Trust. Find out more at www.neneeducationtrust.org.uk