advice, life, thoughts

No one puts Baby in a box…

I hope you all enjoyed the ‘Dirty dancing’ reference in the title even half as much as I enjoyed thinking of it. Girls just love to have puns, eh?

As I get closer to graduation, I have been considering all my choices that have led to this point. I think it is common for people to become very introspective towards the end of things.

I am at a point where I pretty much have my life mapped out for the next couple of years. Whilst there is a lot of comfort in having a plan and I am very grateful to be in this position, it can also feel constraining. I have been working for the past few years to get to this point but now I am here, it sometimes feels claustrophobic. It can feel like I have been put in a box.

A few weeks ago I was trying to make plans with a friend and I spent ages staring at my diary but we just could not make it fit. I have always been a busy person but this was a new level of conflicting schedules. I was completely booked up with plans. Then I heard my inner voice whisper: “this is your life now. This is how it begins“.

This led to bit of a existential crisis where I began thinking about all the different paths I could have taken but did not. Particularly, I was thinking about all the different aspects of my creativity that I am not using.

For example, before University, I used to draw and paint. Even now all my hobbies and what I spend my spare time doing tends to be creative. From my vlogs on my YouTube channel to poetry to performing. There are so many different things that I love to do. I sometimes think that I could have turned some of these areas into a job. For example, a secret dream of mine has been to be a kids TV presenter (think Cbeebies in the morning type thing!)

However, when people ask me what I plan on doing after graduation, I can often feel them mentally categorising me into a certain type of person. It is usually discreet through a change in tone of voice. However, some have been more overt and actually questioned me on my choices somewhat suggesting I am wasting other talents.

Everyone wants to define me by my initial career path. It makes it easier to understand me. It is so much easier to put someone in a box than to appreciate all the nuance. This is the plague of people with eclectic interests.

It is just like back in school and teachers would say you were the science, maths, english, music or drama type. For me, this was always a difficult thing to deal with because whilst English was clearly my favourite, I enjoyed and was good at most things therefore, I could have gone down most paths. This is something I have written about before in an old post why don’t I have a mortgage?

I can vividly remember a conversation I witnessed between one of my sisters and a lady a while ago. The woman was admiring how pretty my sister is and was wondering if she had thought of modelling. To which my sister responded thanking her and mentioning she actually did beauty pageants in her spare time. She then went on to clarify that she was actually doing her masters in engineering. My sister was met with a look of surprise and the statement:

Oh you didn’t seem the type

Whilst I know the lady did not mean offense, it is something that I feel is a huge problem in today’s society. We are constantly being put in boxes which are clipping our wings making us unable to be the best we can be. The response and look from the lady we spoke to suggested that beauty pageants and engineering could not coexist equally. And it was weird that someone would want to do that.

Likewise, I used to work part-time at a sports shop and this is the sort of thing I saw all the time. For example, I remember being really busy at work with the back to school rush and I spotted a family doing some shopping. The young girl was dithering trying to pick a school bag and the mother was clearly stressed and she aggressively shouted at her:

“You can’t have that bag. You are a girl. And that bag is for boys”

I looked at the bag the little girl was clutching and I think it had a tractor on it or something. They then went off to do the rest of their shopping but when they came to the till to be served, as I was scanning their stuff, I saw the chosen bag. It was a pink Disney princess bag. A bag clearly more suitable for a young girl.

Similarly, back in sixth form I bumped into one of the exam invigilators on the way out and we got talking. Then he said to me, “oh I bet you are a good runner”. There was a moment of silence where I was really confused then it clicked and I said “oh because I’m black”. He then said “yes I once went to Africa and all the kids could run’. I actually had to stop for a minute, bite my tongue and just smile. I realised the man probably did not know any better and could not see why I would be offended and I have come to realise that it is not every battle that I must fight.

The minute you find yourself saying to anyone “you cannot do this because you are…”, “you cannot have this because you are…”, “you cannot be this because you are…” Or something else to that effect. What you are really doing is putting that person in a box.

We make so many assumptions based on gender, race, social class or what we perceive others to be. I have written about the harmful effects of stereotypes before in my post I am not your maid. Whilst many argue this is a natural occurrence, it is something I am really uncomfortable with.

Because my sister is an Engineer, she should not be pretty. Because that little girl is female, she cannot have a bag with a tractor on it. Because I am black, I must be a good runner. All these things on the surface are only little and we all try to justify it to ourselves. However, when we blow it up on a larger scale, it really does become a problem.

I have since realised that what I was worried about with the regards to my future career is not whether it was the right path for me. I know it is right. I have been wanting to do this for the longest time and I am so unbelievably excited. I did not just fall or stumble on to my particular path, it has taken numerous well thought out, often challenging but always purposeful steps. However, I was worried that working in a corporate sphere and my passion for creativity could not exist together.

But the two things are not mutually exclusive. I can love the law and love to paint at the same time. I have chosen the former as a career right now but it does not put me in a box. If I wanted to, I could decide to focus on something more overtly creative later on if that is what I desired. Likewise, I can use my creativity within the corporate sector to give me an edge. You only have to look at a few of the judgements in some of the case-law that have established key precedents to know that Lawyers can and need to be creative (yes Lord Denning, I am looking at you).

My creativity has helped me so much in my degree. It helps me understand topics easily and explain my ideas in new and interesting ways. I am sure few other people would quote The Clash’s “I fought the Law and the law won” to explain why the Miller case can be seen as a pivotal affirmation of parliamentary sovereignty. And as frequent readers of my blog know, there is a Hamilton the musical quote or analogy for everything.

We live in a culture where there is a general aversion to commitment. I am part of the generation of “casual” and 2am “wyd?” texts. In terms of weighing up options, this is not always necessarily a bad thing as it is so important to really think through your choices which I touched on before in my post University: to go or not go. Likewise, the modern phenomenon of not staying with a particular company for all of your life is also in many regards a positive thing.

However, life can be long and there will be opportunity to explore every facet of your interests as long as you do not become complacent and are intentional with your aspirations. Do not be afraid of committing to one thing you love because you are scared of losing out on the other aspects.

But within this, do not be put in a box and do not put others in a box.

It’s just me, Dammy, jumping out of the box.



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