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By Yen Hyoung Cho

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“I want to be a violinist”

“I want to be an artist”

“I want to be a game designer”

“I want to be a lawyer”

“I want to be a person who can protect the world”

“I want to be someone who can change the world”

When I was really young, I remember my mind was bubbling with dreams. A naïve, indecisive girl who thought nothing in the world was impossible for her, and earnestly believed she could become anything she wanted to be. I’m sure you’ve all had that, too. We would constantly be inspired by books, movies, music, games and the environment around us; being fed with dreams of what we could become in the future. We would all wish to grow older faster and become our well-thought-out-selves of the future— I know I did. But, all happy times must come to an end, and now that I have grown up, I have inevitably begun to bear the burdens of what it means to be an adult.

It is not an easy decision to make so simply based on what we wanted to become at a young age. Having become a responsible age, we now have millions of other factors to consider into our lives: family, income, housing, tax, parents, and more. Our wings of dreams have been snipped from us so that we can live up to the realistic standards of the world. This has changed how some students view higher level of education and why they want to attain it.

It is more than just a battle with time. It is a battle with realistic expectations and self-doubt given to us by the world. Drawing by Yuki Iida.

It is more than just a battle with time. It is a battle with realistic expectations and self-doubt given to us by the world. Drawing by Yuki Iida.

Students thoughtlessly enter university or college not as a means of broadening their knowledge in the field of interest, but rather for the name of the university printed on our resumes for future reference. They don’t have the heart to gamble their well-built lives on what their heart tells them to do, so they generally go with what is expected of them from those around. According to U.S News, Worlds Report and The Princeton Review, out of the top 10 reasons as to why students choose to go to college, the top two reasons correspond to:

  1. This college has a very good academic reputation
  2. This college’s graduates get good jobs

We have become an age where we have realized that it is no longer a question of “What do we ‘want’ to be when we grow up?” but rather “What we are ‘allowed’ to be when we grow up?” It is a harsh reality many students my age face in today’s age of colorless gray. Of course, there are those who end up realizing that the path they chose is the one for them, but not everyone is as fortunate.

There will be those who come face to face with a tall wall of self-doubt and uncertainty about their future. The question of “Is this truly what I want to do?” is not an uncommon one asked by many young people today. Quarter-life crises; a period of life usually ranging from late teens to early thirties, in which a person begins to feel doubt about their own life brought on by the stress of becoming an adult, is a common feeling felt by young adults today. I too, have also come across this barrier countless of times during my journey to adulthood. Even till this day I have doubts about what I really want to be when I grow up because I don’t know what the future holds. It is a crushing feeling where everything you have done until this moment seems useless. You keep telling yourself you wasted your time because at the end of all the hardship you have endured, you are now unsure if you are ready to pursue this career you have chosen. Self-doubt will always be the one thing constantly that pulls you back down to your knees.

For any of you facing similar problems, if anything, I would love to say ‘follow your heart’— a cheesy unrealistic line, but life really isn’t that simple. We are all afraid of failure and regrets that possibly await us in the future. For some of us, we don’t even know what we want to do in the future. So, instead I’ll tell you this— “If you are facing a quarter-life crises, it’s never too late to take the unpredictable turn.” Whatever you are doing in life, and whatever point you are at life, try taking a plunge into the unknown for once. Bilbo Baggins, a character in the famous book The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien, once said “I’m going on an adventure!” Try leaving the hobbit hole. You never know what possibilities may lie ahead.


Yen Hyoung Cho is a third-year PEAK student at the University of Tokyo.

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