The Eighteen Year Old Blues

I’m feeling low down, I’m 18, and I don’t know what to do with my future: I’ve got the blues, man.

I’ve googled teenage songs and come across this lyric from the Eighteen Year Old Blues by Steve Carl from 1958 in a list on the Guardian website.  Apparently the song ponders the options available to him.  

I’ve been thinking about what my options were when I was 18.  This morning I’ve been talking to the year 13 students at my old school. (Hello if any of you are reading this!)  Teenagers generally get a bad press.  Most articles or pieces about teenagers in newspapers or on the news focus on antisocial behaviours, how they are illiterate or lack numeracy skills, how many are NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training – over a million at the latest estimate) etc.  It’s not a positive picture being painted.

What options are there for teenagers now?  Adults with different levels of experience are struggling to work, there is a push on volunteering to get a foot in the door but many companies and organisations are reaching saturation.  How many companies faced with an experienced out of work adult or a teenager are likely to pick the teenager?  It’s an economically unstable world, there are few jobs for life anymore and it’s hard to find part time work.  I’m not sure I’d like to be 18 now.

Having said that, the teenagers I was talking to today were polite, well turned out and asked sensible, well thought out questions.  There was a good level of attendance and quite a few of them were confident enough to come up and talk to me about various things afterwards.  My message that sort of evolved from my talk about my last ten years was that you need to take chances and basically choose something that makes you happy because what else is important in the end?  Have a try, spend time with your family and friends, work enough to pay for the lifestyle you want and have fun.  Talk to people, make mistakes.

I’ve probably said it before but I don’t really know what to do with myself.  I know that not knowing what they want to do terrifies some people, but i quite like that feeling at the moment.  It’s a challenge.  What can I carve out of the chaos? I’ve got lots of ideas it’s just a case of putting them into practise and making them reality.

But what if you are 18 and you haven’t started and you don’t know, and you can’t start and you are feeling completely lost?

I would say stop, take a breath and make a list of what you love doing and what you like doing.  (Let’s be sensible with this list but hobbies are good options) Which of those do you think you might be able to do in a work environment?  Do some research.  Google is your friend. (Other search engines are available)  Use some of these websites:

https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/Pages/Home.aspx

http://www.prospects.ac.uk/

http://www.fasttomato.com/

http://www.futuremorph.org

http://www.ucas.com/

Talk to people, get advice, get suggestions, get a range of opinions – after all what has worked for one person may not work for you.  (I’m guessing that some of the things I’ve talked about today would be of little to no interest to some of those listening.)  Then think about it, make a plan if you want, make a back up plan if you want. Then make a choice.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the wrong one. The choosing is the important thing.  And making your own choice helps to build you as an adult.

Let’s end with some words from Stephen Sondheim, because he’s a genius and I’m really not.

Everybody says don’t, everybody says don’t, everybody says don’t – it isn’t right, don’t – it isn’t nice!

Everybody says don’t, everybody says don’t, everybody says don’t walk on the grass, don’t disturb the peace, don’t skate on the ice.

Well, I say do,
I say, walk on the grass, it was meant to feel!
I say sail!
Tilt at the windmill,
And if you fail, you fail.

Everybody says don’t, everybody says don’t,
Everybody says don’t get out of line.
When they say that, then lady that’s a sign:
Nine times out of ten,
Lady, you are doing just fine!

Make just a ripple.
Come on be brave.
This time a ripple,
Next time a wave
Sometimes you have to start small,
Climbing the tiniest wall,
Maybe you’re going to fall-
But it is better than not starting at all!

Everybody says no,
Everybody says stop.
Everybody says mustn’t rock the boat,
Mustn’t touch a thing!
Everybody says don’t,
Everybody says wait,
Everybody says can’t fight city hall,
Can’t upset the cart,
Can’t laugh at the king!
Well, I say try!
I say laugh at the kings or they’ll make you cry.
Lose your poise!
Fall if you have to,
But lady, make a noise!

Everybody says don’t, everybody says can’t,
Everybody says wait around for miracles,
That’s the way the world is made!
I insist on miracles, if you do them,
Miracles – nothing to them!
I say don’t,
Don’t be afraid!

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