I know I have been pretty AWOL lately on this website but I was going through a slightly depressed period in which everything seemed useless and stupid (so, normal).
Anyway, I will indulge you with the tedious details of my puzzled mind, but for now I have to catch up on a wonderful, wonderful thing.
Three days ago (June 26th) was the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - so, 20 years ago (and three days), the most wonderful book was first published and has enchanted me and so many more ever since.
As you all know, I consider myself to be a hardcore HP fan (do you know who Miranda Goshawk is because I do) and probably one who has read the books the most (I would give you the number, but I simply can't because I've stopped counting at some point).
In order to celebrate this magical event, I have not only re-read the first book, but also the fourth and, once again, I was drawn into the world of wizardry and the unbelievably incredible sense of humour of Ronald Weasley (seriously, I must say he's more and more becoming my favourite). For me, reading Harry Potter is like coming home and that is why, wherever I go, I take the books with me. When I was alone in Dublin or London and was feeling low, I could always count on my favourite heroes to cheer me up.
But for me, Harry Potter was not only about reading it was the foundation for my very creative childhood - well, one of the foundations. I and my friends would run around with wands, time-turners and cloaks, pretending to go to Hogwarts. But here comes the magical thing about HP. You don't need the characters to play inside the world. Harry, Ron and Hermione were always there, but no one of us pretended to be either of them, as their story was already being told, no, we wanted to tell our own stories and the world of Harry Potter enables children to do just that. We were going to Hogwarts and there was Snape doing potions, McGonagall teaching Transformation and the Whomping Willow lashing out, but we were within our own plots and I loved that. I also believe that it highly contributed to the fact that I am a writer today. The day I realised that Harry Potter hadn't come out of thin air but had actually been written by a person (you, wonderful Jo) I was determined to write books, too, and have done it ever since. So, here is to you, Jo, and your wonderful work which inspired many, many people and changed this individual's life for ever.
Recently, I read an interesting article which dealt with a yet to be clinically acknowledged syndrome called “bore-out syndrome”. You might already have heard of it; however, I am sure you’ve heard from its brother - burnout syndrome.
True, in fact, bore-out syndrome is quite the opposite of burnout syndrome but leads to the pretty same consequences: unhappiness at the workplace, frustration, depression, lack of life motivation and the inability to see any sense in what you are doing. Sounds familiar? Well, there aren’t any official numbers but I am pretty positive that most people at least once in their lives have suffered from it. Why would I make such a gloomy assumption? Well, because I believe that, if even, probably 95% of the population which financially and culturally would have the opportunity to do what they would like to do, simply don’t do that, but are trapped in headache-causing, boring jobs they never wanted to do in the first place.
Why is that? I would assume many people choose jobs because they sound like a lot of money. Banker, lawyer, doctor or marketing manager. Others choose jobs they assume to be without too much effort and good conditions (teacher); however, I believe the majority simply never has found out what they want to do or were actively deterred from doing it (don’t become an artist, how will you ever make money with that? Why not study law?). So, fundamentally, with everything I propose, this is a problem stemming from out insufficient school systems which actively prevent children from being individualistic and following their own voice and path. But let this article not be about the flaw-ridden school system (again!), and let’s return to the syndrome known as bore-out. Apparently, people who suffer from it are either not enough challenged in their work or the workload is simply too little. Many will now probably say “Hey, not working and getting paid for it? How great is that?”. Well, it isn’t. I believe people want to create and work - that is what we do. Sitting in front of the telly all day doesn’t make you happy. Additionally, people who are at work often still have to sit down the hours and can’t leave when they’ve finished their day’s work which means hourlong sitting about and watching the clock slowly ticking away precious lifetime. This can lead to a decrease of seeing sense in your lifetime and, therefore, to an all over lack of motivation for not only your work but anything else, which, in the worst case, can lead to depression and isolation.
Even when I was at school, I found the boring subjects much harder to bear than the slightly over-challenging ones. Nothing was worse than knowing you have to sit for two hours straight, listening to the droning voice of a bored high school teacher drivelling on and on about some ungraspable subject. I’d rather sweat in maths class than being bored to death in psychology and philosophy class.
The weird thing is that the occurrence and increase of bore-out syndrome does not surprise me in the least - rather the opposite. I just wonder how a society can continue with the old-trodden tracks even though most people are clinically feeling ill and most are unhappy with their lives in some aspects - even though we do not lack anything financially or infrastructurally. And let’s not forget all the other ailments accompanying most people’s lives: allergies, gastritis, migraine - in my opinion all ailments caused by too much stress, fears and a general unhappiness with the present situation.
But why are so many people content to move on with what they do even though it gives them so little satisfaction? Well, I am afraid most people don’t even know that there is another way through life - and why would they? School teaches exactly this. There is always something you don’t like but you simply have to accept it, you can never just do what floats your boat, just live with it.
Momentarily I am reading Ken Robinson’s book The Element: How finding your true passion can change everything and it resonates very well with what I have read in the article, only describing the opposite. In his book, Robinson has a collection of stories about people who have found their element and are tremendously happy to be able to live their dreams. I believe, and so do my parents which is why they founded their own Montessori school, that every person has an innate talent or passion which is worth living out and that any individual has this one (sometimes also more than one) element in his life which makes him/her happy and fulfilled. I believe that if anyone were given the opportunity to pursue their innate talents, illnesses like depression, burnout and, for that matter of fact, bore-out, would decrease dramatically, as would crime, physical ailments and general life motivation.
Imagine you have to do a task which neither ignites your interest, nor sparks any sort of passionate feeling day-in, day-out, every day for forty-odd years. For me, this image is hell and I would rather be poor in a great job than rich in a job which doesn’t make me happy (which is why I am a writer). I hope that a better understanding of such syndromes can lead to people realising that the paths we have trodden on for the past decades and centuries need to be reconsidered and that more people find the courage to jump and leave their safe, but unsatisfactory, haven to set on a journey to find something magnificent they would have never dreamed of.
So why don't more people set off and fulfil their dreams? I fear, once again, the answer lies within the early systems of life. At school, failure is stigmatised as the worst thing to happen and once you fail, you never get a chance to improve or try again. Failure is the looming doom which deters people from being creative and original and rather lets them proceed on paths others have already trodden down for them, simply because it is safer and easier to blend in with the rest. Additionally, change or courage is not necessarily considered to be something good in relation to career. If you give up a well-paid job to pursue a career as an artist because it is your inner passion, you are declared a lunatic and most likely everyone in your surroundings will try to talk you out of it. And they don’t do it because they’re assholes, on the contrary. Your parents don’t want you to end up financially insecure or unhappy or whatnot and, in our society, happiness is measured by how much you’ve got, which is why we’re all so unhappy. Doing something secure and supportable is considered more valuable than doing something which makes you happy. And here comes an extra twist. In Robinson’s book, there are people who have been very successful with what they’ve done, just think of J.K. Rowling who has millions of millions of pounds but was told she would never make money writing children’s books. If anyone set out to be an artist for the sake of money, the equation would fail, it wouldn’t work the way you imagined it, and you would be unhappy, too. Money has to be deleted from our minds if it is about finding your passion - and who says you have to do it as a career? Only yesterday my mother told my about my uncle who is a passionate musician and chose to work in the public service (maintenance and cleaning of streets) simply for the reason because it is a job interfering least with his passion. That’s a possibility, too.
But I am digressing...The irony behind all this is that, in my eyes, you fail fatally if you put money over happiness because then you haven’t understood something very fundamental. Failure is only measured by material shortcomings, but it should be measured by whether people are brave and courageous enough to jump and explore until they find something truly grasping or not. So, I’ve set my sails to not fail anymore and look until I find what it is I want to do - and if it will take me a lifetime, and if you feel the above in your job, take a step and leave.
Magic Mandy magically magicked Mike and Minnie away as the magical magazine Magical, made Magic Mandy magically magic Mike and Minnie away.
Am I going to stay here or live somewhere else? Do I want to have children now or later? Do I buy a house or do I want to remain flexible? Do I stay in this job or am I going to look for something else? Is it better to focus on my career or do I focus on my family? Am I chasing a dream or am I ambitious enough to fulfill it? Do I paint the wall pink or yellow? Will I study law or medicine (or anything else)? Will I spend a year abroad or immediately start studying/working? Do I want beef or chicken on my burger?...
So many questions and they all have one thing in common. They require me to make a decision.
Decisions are very fickle things - and they increase in being so. On the one hand, we have more choices than we've ever had before, on the other hand, we've unlearned how to make a decision. How can that be and - even more crucially - are these two coincidences interrelated...?
Well, as with everything, the issue of decision-making has historical and cultural roots, I believe. Culturally, humans have evolved dramatically in the past century, including the ascension of teenage-hood, feminism, childcare, impact of technology and the resulting globalism which led to a merging and melting-potting (yes, I'm using it as a verb) of different cultures. Of course the convergence of various cultures has led to various difficulties, but also to great opportunities. Never before have we had so many possibilities and opportunities as we do now, and herein lies one part of the problem.
Do you know the Buridian's ass paradox of the donkey who, if put between two equidistant stacks of hay, would starve to death due to his inability to make a decision? It stems from the 14th century; however the concept of the paradox dates back much further, namely around 300 BC when Aristotle wrote "...a man, being just as hungry as thirsty, and placed in between food and drink, must necessarily remain where he is and starve to death."
OK, not a nice thought, but you get the gist, right? So, apparently, decision-making has never been the strong-suit of humans; however, I would believe that due to the vast range of possibilities available nowadays, the difficulty of making a decision has strongly increased.
I recently read in an article that people in the earlier days simply didn't have much choice in what to do, and I am not saying this is a good thing, on the contrary, but the vast opportunities have probably evolved so quickly that humans haven't adjusted. In the earlier days you were first of all divided by class - an insurmountable factor. If your father was a poor farmer, there was no such thing as contemplating to become a doctor or lawyer; however, if you were born into a rich family, becoming a maid or a chauffeur was our of question. Secondly, if you were a woman, well, you were screwed anyway and there were just two choices: Raise children and work your ass off on the fields or factories (if you were poor), or give birth to children, shove them off to a nanny and spend the days in blissful boredom, reading or, let's face it, simply looking appealing (if you were an aristocrat).
Nowadays, we are told we can be whoever we want to be and it has never been more true than today. When you finish with school (after the tedious decision which school to attend, of course), what to do next? University? College? Going abroad? Going abroad to go to university? Trying to find a job straightaway? (good luck at that)...or doing some sort of apprenticeship or training after all?
And let's pretend you have decided to attend university...What should you study? English, Psychology? Maths? Chemistry? Law? Something you like or something which will earn you more money?Something that will make you happy or your parents happy? Will you study here or abroad? Will you do only your bachelor's degree or a master's too? Will you need a doctorate?
So many questions and so little guidance to answer any of them. Only prejudiced "advice" from peers and parents and literally EVERYONE around you. I believe advice and guidance are important, as long as they are not obtrusive. The decision itself has to be made by you, but schools should offer guidance systems through the labyrinth of decisions, possibilities and opportunities. When I graduated from school, I had no clue what I COULD study at all with my interests and opted for English and American Studies instead of pursuing something like Marketing Management or Advertising, simply because I didn't know I would be able to do that as well with my interests.
Another reason for the incapability to make a decision is the responsibility that lies within. Generally, it seems people are really unwilling to take up even the slightest scrap of responsibility and I blame, as so often, our public school systems but if I now expand why, this is going to be an entire book, so I am going to forsake it for now and move on. Whenever you willingly make a decision, you automatically exclude another one: the moment I decide to study maths, I also decide to NOT study English, physics, psychology, law, etc... I often feel people have less problems with the decision they make than with the decision they make NOT to pursue and the fear of missing out because of this decision.
The problem is that in the end you often end up with a pseudo-half-decision which makes nobody happy, so how can this be circumvented?
Well, it isn't really easy, is it? And then, on the other hand, it is. I want to believe that deep within, we know what we want and believe, if only external factors like our peers and social environment as well as internal factors like the fear of failure, the fear of financial insecurity or the fear of choosing wrong wouldn't distract us from what really counts. I am not implying here that at the tender age of eighteen everyone knows exactly what they want to do and how they will end up, but nobody does, regardless their age. Still, if a human being can proceed fearlessly and within the parameters of his/her passions, I think most people wouldn't have a hard job making a decision at this point of time (because this is the next step, many people seemingly tend to think they will be stuck with their decision for life, which is profoundly mistaken, you can always change something or redirect your life in a different path). They could embrace with their talents and passions, and I know it sounds cheesy, but it is the unequivocal truth how to make a decision and not feel this immediate tinge in your stomach when farewelling (yes, I am also using the gerund now) another option. If the external world wasn't an issue, if parents wouldn't press their offspring to pursue economy, law or medicine merely for the sake of status, decision-making wouldn't be such a monumental problem in our society and I think the art of decision simply lies within your capabilities to not only embrace your true inner self, but to stop justifying yourself and your decisions to other parties. But always remember, it is a long process and despite having elaborated on it so eloquently here, I am far from mastering the art of decision myself in many ways...
Writer. Editor. Blogger. YouTuber. Freelancer. Traveller. English fanatic.