Life experience ·6.2·

The uncertainty of finding your own path and following your passions

What is your life worth in this society?

You can’t deny the fact that with money, you have a lot more options, regardless of what it is. With money, most of the times you have an advantage others don’t have. It already starts with being able to afford college tuitions or being able to move somewhere else for education. I am really fortunate to have parents who are working hard to support me financially. I am also lucky enough to be able to work part-time. Not everyone has a chance like that. If you don’t have the money, you will encounter so many obstacles. How can you afford the move? How do you pay the tuition? The books? The rent? The transportation? The food? If you have money, you can afford to concentrate on your studies without worrying about your finances or finding a part-time job that pays enough that you can support yourself, but also lets you have enough free time for your studies. However, it can go further than that. In this world, money holds a lot of power. With money comes connections, which are often crucial for any kind of business. The so-called ‚Vitamin B‘. An example of that is the recent college admissions scandal in the United States, where federal prosecutors found out that people were cheating on standardized tests or bribing college coaches to accept students. They paid several thousands of dollars in order to help their children get a higher score for a test and to get into university.

„The massive college admissions scam is a harsh reminder that wealthy families can cheat their way to even greater privilege“ – CNN

Sometimes it might seem that the things I am writing are a little dramatic. Yet, in this lifetime I have experienced and seen so many things that prove me right every time. Even if you work hard, so often someone with more money and more connections will benefit from a much more favourable position. Even if the things someone is doing are considered immoral by many, nobody will be able to stop them as they get their way. Even if you make severe mistakes, many times justice will be on your side and you know it. I’m not saying that it is right to use money that way, but that is how this society works. It is a mean to so many things. Power. Immunity. Influence. If you have money, the things you want will work out for you one way or another, while others struggle to see a future for themselves. The college scam in the United States might just be one example in one industry. Yes, education is an industry, it is a business. Everything is a business. Healthcare, social welfare, communication, information, education. As soon as money is involved, it becomes a business. As soon as someone sees an opportunity to profit from something, it becomes a business. The scandals that have come to light throughout the years might just be the tip of the iceberg. There might be a lot more we don’t know of, yet.
Some might say now that money is not everything in life. That might be true. It might not be the key to happiness, but it sure is the key to financial stability and a secure lifestyle. You won’t have to worry about rent, about insurance, about food, about being able to pay for transportation, things that nowadays can quickly turn into a great financial burden if just one thing goes wrong. We have to work in order to afford living. Just existing costs money. And if you want more than just existing? If you want to see the world? To try everything the universe has to offer? What if you want more in your life than going to work, return home, just to go to work again the next day? Do we really want to live on this way until we either retire or die? Is that what we call ‚living‘ nowadays? Wouldn’t ’surviving‘ be more fitting? We work to live and we live to work. Where is the meaning of such a life?

Sometimes it feels like the things we work hard on will amount to nothing. Why are we even getting an education? Why do we feel such a need to get a degree that people go to such length to get their children into a good university?
In this society everything just boils down to whether you know the right people and whether the things you do in your early life will be profitable later. Correct me if I am wrong. There might be people who don’t see it the same way, but this is how I see it. Some might say we go to university to become a better version of ourselves or something like that. To educate and improve ourselves. To broaden our horizon. It might have been that way at some point in time, but are the goals still that honorable?
Let’s just be honest. The reason we spend so much time and so much money to attend an institution of higher education is because we think that this is the only way to become a functioning part of society. To become someone that is acknowledged and respected by society. To not end up in a low paying job. To be able to pay for more than food and rent. To be able to do more than just „existing“. We do everything that is necessary to „live“. That is the reality.

There are people who say that you can get a good job without going to university. They blame you for going into debt for university when there are other options. First of all, why is the education system even designed in a way that, from a financial point of view, it is easier for some and more difficult for others? Second, why do you think nowadays so many people seek an university degree? Do you think people go into debt for fun? It is not all party and drinking, even if many want to believe that. We attend university in hope to create a better existence, for ourselves or for others. It doesn’t matter. Who are you to judge someone trying to find their way in life in a profit-oriented society? If we could see hope in another choice, we would take it. However, as things are, we will follow the path that we consider the most secure and yes, the most profitable. Any other option might be a risk. Of course there are other kinds of institutions where you can get a degree without having to pay thousands of dollars. You could do training and learn while being able to earn money at the same time. You can learn and educate yourself on your own time without having to attend university or any other kind of institution and it is without doubt a good thing to do. In this day and age, we have countless resources which make this possible. And yet, it seems like more and more people choose to attend university. Any job position you apply for nowadays will usually ask for an official ‚proof‘ of your qualifications and that is first and foremost your diploma. In other words, it has become the standard that one of the first requirements for many job offers is having a Bachelor’s degree.
Of course there are enough people without a degree who have become successful, but this is simply not the norm. Many people think that having a university degree will make it easier to find work, furthermore higher paying work, at least compared to jobs for which you don’t need a degree. Though, recently it feels like even having a Bachelor’s degree is not enough anymore. We spend years and money to get a degree, to hone and increase our skill set, just to survive on the job market. The more skills and knowledge you have, the more valuable you become, because then a company can make the most profit from one single person.
In this society, we are all replaceable. We can’t afford getting ill. We can’t afford starting a family. There is always someone else waiting for their chance. Someone with more to offer. If we don’t function like they want us to, they are quick to find someone new. They basically hold us hostage with our substitutability. We might work for a corporation our whole life, but as soon as they don’t have any use for us anymore, they will toss us out like a dull knife. No matter how much you have contributed to the growth of the company. They will hire someone new, someone with fresh ideas. Not because they need them as a person, but because they want to use their skills and knowledge to further increase their own profit. We go to university to heighten our usefulness for corporations to profit from. The competition is hard. After we graduate we have to prove ourselves against many others who are basically in the same boat as us. As we want to work, we have to prove to a company that we are more useful than the other applicants. That it is more profitable for them to recruit us. We go study abroad, do unpaid internships, look for specific part-time jobs, participate in countless extracurricular activities, workshops and seminars to grow our value. „If I do this internship, I will have better chances later“, „This part-time job might be useful for me later“, „My semester abroad will look good on my résumé“. It is always the question whether the things we choose to do will be useful for our job search later on. The more we do, the more we hope to be able to counter this substitutability that is looming over our heads. As long as we are replaceable, they can threaten us and we have to comply because there is no other choice. They set us up against each other. We compare and we compete. „I have to do more than that person“. „I have to know more than this person“. „I have to be unique“. „I need to have something nobody else has“. They will make us feel special if they see something they want. „You’re the one we’ve been looking for“. „You are someone we need in this company“. They will make you feel special as long as you help them increasing their profit.

There is always this feeling that we don’t do enough and the fear that if we don’t do enough, we can’t compete and if we can’t compete that we will fall behind. There are times when the anxiety that I won’t achieve anything during this lifetime is numbing. We focus our entire time on optimizing ourselves for the job market, for big corporations, because that is where we see the money, the prestige. For many years I thought that that should be my ultimate goal. Find a high paying job at a reputable company and increase my standing in society. However, during the recent years, I am not sure about this anymore. Is this the right path? Is this really something I want in life? Live for a large corporation who can’t care less for their employees, unless they bring great profit in? Success can be a fleeting matter. What if we fall sick? What if there is an emergency in our family? On the road to „success“, personal matters can quickly become a hindrance and we need to make sacrifices. Whether it be our family and friends, our health or our sanity. They want more from you. More skills. More knowledge. More commitment. More of your time. More. They want everything they can get from you without paying for it and when we can’t deliver anymore, we are left to fend for ourselves, even after spending years and energy just to become the ideal candidate. Many people look forward to their retirement, thinking about all the things they always wanted to do and will be able to as soon as they retire. And yet, with the direction in which everything is heading right now, it seems like many won’t even be able to afford to retire.

There is this anxious feeling that everything we do will lead to nothing in the end. The hopelessness and uncertainty concerning the future makes us give up on pursuing long-term goals and investments, because we think that they are out of reach anyways. The media reports how young people don’t invest in real estate anymore. Instead of saving up for an own house, we spend our money on small things, that might seem useless to others, but make everyday life more bearable. We stopped believing that there is a reason to save. The expectation that with hard work, we will be able to attain long-term happiness and success, is long gone. Living costs are getting higher day by day, salaries are low, finding non-exploitative jobs is a matter of luck and working conditions aren’t getting any better.

Most of us spend the majority of our lives working to grow the profit for someone else, fulfilling other people’s expectations and waiting for the final years to finally do what we wanted to do and then that was it? Is it even worth it anymore? What’s the point of all of this, if we don’t see any future?

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