Life is scripted

Photo credit: Dongyoung Won

Photo credit: Dongyoung Won

You may not know it, but you have been playing the game your whole life. This, of course, is the game of getting ahead.

As American society is becoming more and more competitive, we find ourselves pushed harder and harder to do better than the person next to us. Our culture has decided what is necessary to stand out, and we constantly comply.

We conform to the ideal of what an outstanding individual is so wholeheartedly, that our lives have become scripted.

I’ll begin with a personal example. In Paris this past November, I decided to go to the Louvre, the most visited museum in the world and a Paris “must-do.” I waited in line to buy a 15 euro ticket while reading what I was about to see.

Suddenly I remembered I don’t care about Renaissance art. Luckily I dodged out of line and exited the building before a financial commitment was made.

I realized I was only going because I felt like I was supposed to and it’s “world class” and “cultural,” not because I wanted to. Although this isn’t about getting ahead in life, it illustrates that we do (or almost do) many things we don’t want to, simply because society thinks we should.

When our parents were our age, college was something only people who wanted to be doctors and lawyers attended. Today, a college degree might as well be what a high school diploma was 30 years ago. This makes college feel mandatory. Whether you feel education is important or not, we are compelled to attend a higher learning establishment because it seems required of us.

Therefore, for many people going to college is simply a ploy to get ahead in the world. Instead of attending for the sake of expanding knowledge, we go because society demands it.

From the moment many of us first began school, the focus was going to college, as if there was nothing else you could possibly do with your life. It begins with brief talks and moves on to standardized testing and SAT prep.

The societal pressure placed on going to college can also squander entrepreneurship. Many people who would otherwise go on after high school to invent great things or start successful businesses are stopped dead in their tracks by the seemingly inevitable four years in college.

In college we tend to do a lot of things we believe future employers want us to do in order to get ahead.

“Build your resume” is a phrase we’ve all heard.

It essentially means do things because potential employers want you to. I’m positive everyone has at some point in their college career done something they didn’t necessarily want to do for a resume—whether it be joining that finance club or attending that speech in the auditorium.

Another thing that seems to be a “must,” as deemed by society these days, is a summer internship. Although many people see them as a way to propel into an industry, they are usually low paying and difficult.

Some are even unpaid. Nobody wants to work for free, but we do it because we feel like we have to.

With the standardization of our growth in society, it feels as if the individual is no longer valued.

Walker Percy sums it up nicely in his mock self-help book “Lost in the Cosmos” by saying, “the self nowadays is other-directed rather than inner-directed and depends for its self-esteem on its perception of how others evaluate it — something like a beggar in a crowd with his hand out.”

The problem is, the more of us that fall into this trap, the more important it seems. People increasingly only admire hard work and adherence to the social structure. Being out of the box or taking an alternative route in life is regarded as outlandish.

Unfortunately the script of being an outstanding individual doesn’t end after college.

Next, you’ll be expected to get a stable job, get hitched, buy a house in the suburbs and have two and a half children.

God forbid you do anything else.

Alex Horne can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.