I remember clearly the random career paths and ‘jobs’ I would tell my family were in my future; these ranged from astronaut, to chef, to spy to singer. Of course, all of these seemed super exciting in my head, but to actually pick one and commit to it, that is a completely different ball game.
I floated through High School, enjoying various subjects
which again ranged from P.E to Art to Physics and History and to not sound too big headed, I received pretty good grades and feedback from all of them. I remember the stress of first having to cut down on subjects, having to give some up, possibly forever and commit more seriously to one path. This was not an easy task. I remember thinking to myself, how the hell am I supposed to know what is best, what I enjoy the most and what will be most useful when I enjoyed such a broad range and had little to no idea what I wanted to do in my future. Sadly, when I reflect back now, I think the pressure to pick more ‘academic’ subjects got to me. I held onto P.E for a while, but when it got to the serious years of ‘Highers’ that was dropped too.
This frustrates me! I wish I had the confidence to keep going with the subjects which truly brought me joy and interested me. Although some of my higher subjects did, such as History, the amount of science and maths subjects in my timetable was definitely more a reflection of trying to fit into the academic bubble. Again, I did well in my subjects and I tried hard. I have no grounds to complain. But I do think within High School we feel a real pressure to fit a certain mould. We do not spend the time to reflect on what actually makes us happy. What lesson goes so quickly because we enjoyed it all. Rather than what subject ‘might look better on a UCAS form you have not even looked at yet’. We label certain subjects ‘less impressive’ than others which is so wrong. The fear of cutting off opportunities or losing out can definitely kick in. I wish I had spent the time to reflect more.
So what about your future?
Well, throughout my last 2 years in High School the question was raised more and more, what is your plan for after school? This was stressful to say the least. My experience with this question makes me laugh when I look back. I went through so so many different phases, committing myself to one idea, before retracting that quickly and committing myself to another. I remember one rocky few months almost dropping one of my Higher subjects I loved the most, History. I was thinking about studying medicine at University. Thankfully, I stuck with History and realised this desire to study medicine was based on nothing but pressure to do something impressive. I remember going through other weird phases, thinking about studying Physics because it sounded impressive or Physiotherapy because I had liked the Physio treating my recent sports injury. Clearly, what was next for me, was still an abstract confusing question. I honestly had no idea. I know I wanted to go to University, I wanted to experience it, meet new people and give myself the time to figure out what the hell my future would look like. I was studying Physics, Chemistry, Maths, English and History.
The social science versus science debate raged in my head. During University Open Days I attended both the science talks and the History ones. Looking back, I literally had no desire to study science. It brought me no joy. I could do it, yes. But I would ask myself, is studying numbers, atoms and tiny little things which mean so little to me what I want to spend the next 4-5 years doing. I wish I had answered that question when still in school. I applied to two Scottish Universities for both Chemistry and History, as well as one application for Chemical Engineering- weird I know. Even weirder in my head was I received offers from all 5 places, I was so lucky, but I do think I was hoping the decision to be made for me. The debate in my head waged on. In my final years of school, when I had all offers I picked Maths, History, Chemistry biology initially. This swapped, thankfully, to English, History and Chemistry. The reason for holding on to Chemistry for so long, makes me laugh and cry in equal measures.
If only I could transport back in time and scream at my High School self- you do not need to study Chemistry to feel smart, you hate this class, you hate this topic, give it up! The majority of my close friends were going to study science, maths or medicine, with a few unsure like myself and one (my idol) dropping out to pursue drama. I remember asking to be her manager if she made it, cause that sounded fun! The enjoyment of English and History compared to Chemistry along with my growing confidence in myself made me realise what I actually enjoyed. I also got the opportunity to complete volunteering within local schools running workshops on Holocaust remembrance, inequality and the refugee crisis. Diving into current affairs such as these made me also realise my passions more clearly. Anything with social impact was going to be given a big tick from me…
I finally committed to History, I think the realisation being, I hated Chemistry. It was that simple and it only took me 6 years to figure it out…
I still had no real idea what I would want to do after, which personally did not bother me. In my head, how is a 17 year old with very little experience other than school and a part-time job able to map out her future? The school environment does not accept that as an answer sadly, and the constant questions of ‘oh what are you going to do with a history degree?’ still make me squirm. I remember looking into a Law course as a possible swap from History or a post degree plan just so I had an answer to throw at those who asked.
The course History at University was amazing- the ability to dive into topics linked to gender, race and social issues was so interesting and new to me. I found it so unbelievably interesting. But University as a decision itself was probably a highlight. I met the most amazing people, had the most fun I had ever had, I managed to still work part time but get the freedom which I really craved, most commonly by saving up and finding £20 flights to explore the world anytime me and my friends could!
It was through University that I met Alison, my co-founder and where we began Lilypads.
Starting Lilypads provided me with a drive and passion I had not experienced before and really is what made my University experience what it was.
I had ever given business a thought in the slightest. In my opinion I lacked the skills, confidence, personality and gender being completely honest, to start and run a company when in my head at the time it was tough, arrogant men in suits who did that sort of thing. Luckily, the passion for the mission has kept both me and Alison committed and through this I have learned so much and gained so much experience. So to anyone reading this thinking about University, College or employment, remember it might be the random opportunities that pop up or the project on the side which gives you the most.
Looking back, my main bit of advice for anyone struggling with thinking about the future is that sadly you can not plan your life when you are in High School. You can try and maybe there are those people out there who have set and stuck to one path- but I doubt it. You will change your mind. Opportunities you never expected or thought about in the slightest will pop up and you will learn more about yourself as you grow up and try new things.
Focus on your passions, what gives you energy rather than what drains your energy and what you really care about. It is easier said than done but it is so worth it.
I was ready to leave University in the Summer of 2020, unlike some people I know I was done with studying! When I think back to my 16 year old self dropping subjects like P.E that I enjoyed to take science subjects it makes me sad. But also maybe I would not have had the experiences and realisation I have had without doing so, you can never know. In my opinion everything happens for a reason, I just wish I had figured that out earlier!