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  • Michael Barrows

Life and the Script

I've recently been signing up to appear on a couple of podcasts. These are largely for me to practice speaking in different forums, but also about putting myself out there in different ways.

The subjects i have largely been focusing on are generally around mental health in young people. This has partly been looking at the impact of the pandemic on young people and how to talk to young people about their mental health.


One thing appearing a lot in my work at the moment is how a lot of young people are feeling lost. That they are not doing what they "should". For the young people who were meant to be sitting exams last year, they never got to experience that rite of passage that is sitting the exams and opening them in the autumn. Instead they got predicted grades. A lot of young people felt quite directionless after no exams, or even just being out of school for too long. So come September, many children are anxious about returning.


When thinking about what young people "should" be doing, brings to mind this notion of a script that we seem to allow to dictate the path of our life. This notion was first introduced to me in my clinical supervision. The idea being that we have this socially constructed idea of the general pathway we should take with our lives. For a 16 year old, this would be finishing exams and then going onto college and then most likely university, work or an apprenticeship. When we stray from the script, we are met with the confusion of others. Its the conversation that happens around the dinner table. 'So David, what are you planning to do after college? Have you thought about what university you want to go to? No... why not? you should think soon or you'll miss your chance!'.


Schools already are giving young people this notion of exams being this huge factor in determining your future. In truth, if you look at most job applications they only care about your Maths and English at a GCSE level. Moreover, if you don't achieve the grade first time round then you can re-sit. However re-sitting has become this almost shameful idea. Because if you have to re-sit, you not following the script, but the young person becomes prone to worries about being left behind and everyone going off to university or work before them. They then start to feel different.


The script exists in our adult lives too. Young people have turning being an adult into a verb, known as 'adulting'. As if there is a proper way to behave and if you adopt this behaviour you're 'adulting' today. Moreover, we again have these socially constructed ideas again of what we should be doing. As women get older they become pressured to have children, settle down, have a family. You've been with your partner for so long a time, so you should get married by now. These odd expectation we place on our lives and who really set the rules? Nonetheless, there seems to be a common sense about these things. Same goes for relationships, we largely apply heterosexual norms to relationships, again as if there is a way of being in a relationship. But this doesn't work for everyone and those who don't follow the script can be ostracised. Seen as unusual because they don't follow the common rule.


If you've got this far then well done, my ramblings i hope are making some sense. So much more now I am seeing young people presenting with depression, because they don't fit the script and feel they are not doing what they "should". As teenagers they may have a greater presence online than in the real world, because few people in their school have similar interests. But because parents see this behaviour as unusual then the young person is left feeling that they are doing something wrong. When in truth they are exploring forums to explore who they are and want to be. Its so limiting.


So this was something i wanted to introduce and highlight. There is no 'right' way to live life and if someone enjoys it, if it brings no harm to anyone else but more importantly it brings joy to the person. Who are we to say what they should do?

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