Let me start by saying: I love that you’re a dreamer. Others will tell you it’s naïve and juvenile, and often look down on you for it, but trust me when I say:
With the ability to dream, comes the power to make it happen.
As you look ahead to your future, you’re currently dreaming about how you can make the world a better place; you want to make a valuable contribution to society and positively impact your community. These are your inherited values (thanks mum and dad!); welcome these values with open arms and allow yourself to be influenced and guided by them in all that you do.
Armed with these dreams and values, you’re already considering a life-long career in Law at the ripe old age of 16. You want to seek justice and be the voice for the voiceless. And so, you’ll go on to get your Law degree from a leading university, become President of your Law Society and complete your Legal Practice Course.
But as you embark upon this career, you start to have the distinct feeling that it is no longer right for you. In practice, the work that you’ll do won’t align with your core values. Your type-A personality may relish these achievements and the validation you receive from society – but you will start to feel conflicted. You will feel nervous about your future, guilty for letting others down, and insecure that you have no assurance as to whether your next decision will be the right one. How can you give up something you have always dreamt about and worked so hard for?
It’s okay to change your mind
I want to tell you: these feelings are natural and actually imperative to your growth. So far, you’ve had structure in your life (school, university, first job), whereas now things will be more unpredictable. But this is the beauty of your early 20s: to be able to question, experiment, make mistakes and learn from them. It will take some getting used to, but as you get to know yourself better and develop a positive self-narrative, you will see many benefits in taking risks. This is something you won’t see many of your peers do – but, don’t be distracted by others’ journeys! Eventually you will recognise that as we evolve as individuals, so do our interests, choices and opinions. And with this thought in mind, you will realise that you canchange career paths, and that a decision you made as a teenager doesn’t need to (and shouldn’t) carry you through to retirement.
An opportunity to make a real difference
You persist in your mission to find a job that is more ‘you’ and are awarded with socially impactful roles within Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability. You will work for renowned law firms, consultancies and global banks. You will find your feet, be good at your job and be promoted; you will feel what it is like to be ‘successful’.
But, along with a padded CV of brand names, you will also experience racism, manipulation and sexual harassment in the workplace. You will feel a whole host of emotions during this time: shame, embarrassment, loneliness. You do not deserve this, and neither is it your own fault. Your confidence will be low and your self-esteem lower. You won’t know how to deal with this immediately, and so you will endure it for longer than you should have to.
It will take a long time to bounce back from but trust yourself – you willget there. You will learn that these events do not determine who you are and more importantly you will go on to provide trusted support to others when they face similar challenges.
Redefining success on your own terms
You will also have the opportunity to reconsider what is truly important to you, not just in the workplace but in life too. You will start to place a higher value on your friendships, relationships and health; achieving a much more balanced lifestyle and thus redefining what success means to you, altogether.
The truth is, life will continue to throw you curveballs – that’s the nature of it. I want to manage your expectations and let you know that the adversities won’t stop; you will develop a chronic autoimmune condition and you will lose people close to you. You won’t necessarily be able to control any of it, but do you know what will keep you going? What will forever give you hope? Your dreams.
The next chapter
If I told you that you will move abroad and are currently writing this letter whilst living in Hong Kong, would you be surprised? How about if I told you that you are working as a freelance Actor and Director, a radio presenter and voice-over artist, and have written children’s stories? Would you believe me?
Perhaps you would. You know how to dream big and dream brave. You have always been a little bit different; when others zig, you zag. So, it should come as no surprise that this is where you are right now. And I know you’ll be dying to find out how you got here, so, no matter what life throws at you, keep persevering, I promise you’ll see it come together soon enough.
I can’t tell you what the future holds beyond this, but I can tell you the journey to this point is very exciting and knowing you, it will probably continue to be so.
Natasha Jain studied Law at the University of Warwick and then went onto work in Corporate Responsibility roles at Allen & Overy and Bank of America. She is now a freelance actor