18

“For almost 18 years you’re taught to sit down, shut up and raise your hand. Then you have to decide what you’re going to do for the rest of your life.”

– Lavon Curtis

Some people don’t have the privilege of deciding or choosing something. Sometimes I fear that I am one of those people who takes it for granted. Other times I feel like I want the choice to decide to be stripped away from me. Most times I can’t remember the last BIG DECISION that I have made.

And by big decisions I mean decisions that could literally affect your future, not what ice cream flavor to choose at Baskin Robbins or which pajamas to bring to a sleepover. I suppose the first big decision I had to make would be whether or not to enroll in a boarding school. But to be honest I couldn’t really say that I made the decision because the choice was well ….. made for me. I was 12 when my parents first started talking to me about boarding schools at the dinner table. They told me what it was, the privileges of going there, etc etc. They asked me if I wanted to go there and I said yeah,that sounds like fun. My thoughts mattered to them, I know. If I had adamantly said ‘no’ they would’ve dropped the topic  (super glad I didn’t, btw). 5 days later I was starting to have second thoughts. But when my teacher passed me the boarding school application form I brought it home and didn’t think too much of it. My teachers were always talking about how hard it is to get accepted often enough for me to think that the students who do get accepted couldn’t possibly be mere mortals. Until a few months later when I actually got the acceptance letter. When my mother read it she smiled and cried. And I smiled back because I managed to make her happy, not because I was super-hyped to go or anything. Long story short, I went anyway because my parents wanted me to, because I trust them to know what’s best for me and for a myriad of other reasons that has got nothing to do with my decision making skills or personal opinion. If it were up to me I would’ve tore the letter in pieces. Look, the bottom line is, I was glad that it wasn’t up to me. I’m glad that I just rolled with it because otherwise I would’ve missed out on one of the best experience in my life (and also my worst, but hey, no pain, no gain).

The second time would be when I had to choose what course to take for my upper form. Again, saying that I chose a course would be a bit of a stretch. My school only had one course: the Pure Science stream. You basically have only 2 choices: Pure Science or Pure Science with additional Accounting subject. So I chose the latter, not because I genuinely like accounts but because the prospect of 10As is more appealing than 9AS.

So when it came the time for me to make the 3rd Big Decision in my life, what to pursue in my tertiary education: I was at a loss. It wasn’t because I don’t know what I really want to do. I do know. And that’s part of the problem. I started Googling which university is the best for the courses that I like. I started with Behavioral Science. Lol ada gell. Then philosophy. Nope. To make it short, I finally settled on accounting. I wanted a degree that you could branch out later in life (think Vivy Yusof r Lisa Surihani), and accounting is perfect for that. Besides, launching a business is one of my dreams in life, so it makes perfect sense for me to choose something that is vital in any business, right? But the ugly truth is that I am scared that this would turn out into one of those times when you think you know something, but you turn out to be completely and utterly wrong. I’ve had my fair share of that and it never turns out pretty.

People would often come up to me and ask “Are you sure that this is really what you want to do?” and I always felt like screaming “NO! I am not sure. I am used to people making decisions and calling the shots for me my whole life. I am used to people telling me that what I really want and think doesn’t really matter, that I would be glad of their decisions in 10 years time. And sometimes that’s true. And sometimes I’m glad of it. But now suddenly one of the biggest decisions in my life comes: the career of my choice – what I would be doing everyday for the rest of my life. And I am scared of making the wrong choice. I am scared of waking up one day 10 years from now and hate myself for choosing wrong.” But of course I can’t tell my aunts and uncles this. People want to hear that you’re okay, that you know what you’re doing. People want to hear the impossible, which is why I always nod in answer.

Being 18 means a lot of things, and making life-altering decisions is one of them. Up until now, I have always had the “I’m still a kid” excuse to get other people to make the decisions for me (sounds petty, I know). So imagine my surprise when I wake up one day and realize that all the choices are being hurled at me at full force. I am now held fully responsible for my choices, and the magnitude of those choices is greater than ever before. It is time for me to learn to grow up, to know the true meaning of it and mostly to know how. And if when I screw up, I would just remember that no matter what it is, I can get through it. I’ve been doing it for almost 18 years.

Love,

Ana

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