What’s With the Rush?

Ara Vickers - Brazil


November 10, 2018

From an early-age, I was taught that there were two paths in life. One,
towards the “American Dream” and one towards fast-food worker purgatory. To
reach this “American Dream” one must not just succeed, but succeed young.
Youth is a modern commodity, the younger you know your path, the more
likely your chance at success becomes. In hopes of pushing us onto the
“good” road, the society guiding the children of today have sped everything
up. My elementary school started preparing me for college when I was in
fifth grade, in my public Middle School we stopped having Recess to fit in
time for projects that we could put on our CV’s. Kids are pushed to be as
impressive as possible at younger and younger ages. I mean, Doctor’s are
now subscribing play because kid’s parents are overbooking them with
extracurriculars! (
www.nytimes.com/2018/08/20/well/family/let-kids-play.html). Pushing
this system along, are the age markers in life that dictate when something
is acceptable to achieve (Bachelor’s by 24, married by 30, kids by 35) and
I have to wonder, who made them? Because I was always made to believe the
goal for hitting these markers was individual and societal happiness,
but… Is it?

This infectiously competitive culture, this brittle world with timelines
and expiration dates, is doing the opposite for what it hopes to champion.
Yes, we are succeeding younger. Teenagers today are expected at minimum to
take on the hardest classes (regardless of interest), the most impressive
extracurriculars, and all while juggling an active social (media) life.
And, while there are some who emerge from this system victorious, many of
us are just overwhelmed. We’re not given the opportunity to fail at
anything. Failing would setback progress and quickly plunge us off the
“good” path, onto that torturous alternative option. This system of
competitive achievement turns out impressive, but very sad people. Being
rich and famous, the pinnacle of what we value, should result in the
pinnacle of happiness, right? Yet, many of the rich and famous are actually
sad and anxious. This has often baffled me, how can people who have taken
the “good” path the farthest they can go not be in a constant state of
Nirvana?? I believe it’s because we are teaching the steps to impress other
people, but somewhere along the way we’ve missed the keys to what actually
makes us happy. We are so focused on innovation through efficiency that
we’ve ended up sacrificing it by skipping the creativity and wisdom it
takes to innovate.

Although happiness to me is cuddling with my Grams, drinking boba and being
goofy with my sister, exploring the woods with my dog, and all the little
big things, I still believed I wasn’t happy without achieving greatness.
So, I worked tirelessly at achieving young. And I did, at the age of 17 I
earned my Associates in Science (a two year University Degree) and my High
School Diploma at the same time. For two years I took on 18 credit
semesters (the normal college students is 12) while finishing my High
School Degree. I earned knowledge, but I burned out my pension for gaining
wisdom. By my last semester I never wanted to touch a textbook again, and
in my quest for success the part of my world that made me happy was
crumbling around me. My grandmother got sick and my dog was given to a new
family. My mother was a full-time law student and my sister was
experiencing the same pressure to achieve young and was constantly busy, so
I clutched onto my studies like they were the only thing that was keeping
me afloat. This fear of failure kept me achieving, but didn’t leave me with
happiness. Even when all I needed was to stop and spend some time in the
woods (where I am always the happiest), the silent pressure I had been
receiving since childhood was beginning to speak in the form of college
counselors. When I finally considered what came with the “good” path, I
realized it all seemed rather trivial. Nothing on that list of successes
interested me. There are so many college-educated, bright young people who
know nothing about the world, yet think they can fix it with their degrees.
This motivation for youthful success equates to a lot of kids being trained
to be impressive perfectionists, but not real problem solvers. There is a
reason the road traveled is a journey, there is a reason some of the
greatest thinkers and innovators in this world made their achievements at
later stages in life, and there is a reason we should all be “playing”. I
believe it’s because we need to experience the human moments, the failures,
the happy times, to gain insight into this world, and truly be able to see
problems and create change. No one model for life can generate happiness,
yet most people I know follow one. Being here, in Brazil, I have already
made the first steps in forging my own pathway. One that will encounter
dead-ends, and stretch through dark times, but I am fortified in thinking
my own path will take me to achieve the personal happiness and change I
want, regardless of the timeline. So, what’s with the rush? Mine, at least,
is over.

Ara Vickers