Recently, a close friend and I were lamenting the proximity of graduation, but the topic of conversation gradually shifted to our plans after college. My friend talked about how she wanted to find a job, then get married and have children.
After hearing this, I thought of how straightforward and boring this life seems. As a kid, I always imagined life to be full of adventures and excitement, and her plan of life seems to be the opposite of these thoughts.
At the end of my friend’s account, I asked the decisive, if not most difficult question: Why are you choosing this life? She was startled at first, but after some thought, she said that it seemed like the best possible life to live. She also explained that many of her friends were following a similar path, and that she would feel like an outsider if she didn’t do the same. Most importantly, she spoke about how her parents were putting a great deal of pressure on her to find a husband.
Of course, this plan of life isn’t intrinsically wrong. Many people find joy and pleasure in having a family and children. However, I am mostly troubled by those who unconsciously accept this plan of life. It seems as if society drums these goals into our brains, and we come to believe that this is the life we should live.
Even so, there are two factors that play a significant role in why we choose this life – society and our failure to critically assess longstanding beliefs. While societal influences can have positive effects (i.e. making it mandatory for children to attend school), I suppose that it directly intrudes on our freedom.
Having the freedom to make our own choices is preferable to being forced to put on an act, regardless of the consequence. This is so because our individuality is indispensable, and without the freedom to choose, we run the risk of losing it.
Some might object and assert that our parents (or society) know what is best for us. This seems questionable, considering that our parents are unable to know our thoughts and feelings and what we truly want for our lives. Also, even if society (or parents) appears to know, that does not give anyone the right to force us to do anything. Again, we are individuals, and we should be able to control our own lives.
The second problem falls squarely on our shoulders. Though society pushes a lot of these beliefs on us, we don’t have to tacitly accept them. As much as we have the right to shape our individuality, we also have the right to choose our beliefs. Many of our religious, political and social beliefs are inherited, and we tend to maintain them despite our doubts concerning them. Our beliefs play an integral role in shaping our identity, but if we do not choose our beliefs, one may question whether this identity is ours.
Critical assessment is most important when selecting a belief. Thus, one should justify their beliefs with evidence before affirming them. If this is done, we will challenge the prevailing views and, consequently, play a larger role in shaping our identities.