Growing up, I had this idea that my whole life would be planned out for me. Every day, I would dress in whatever clothes were appropriate for the day, eat whatever was available to me, learn whatever subject I was supposed to learn and do homework because I had to. K-12 was spent following the path that was laid out for me and doing whatever everyone else was doing. As soon as I graduated, it had hit me that no one was going to hold my hand anymore. No was going to tell me what to do anymore or what path I need to follow. My parents strongly encouraged I went to college and it became a given that I would get my degree. Not that I truly wanted to, but that was already "predetermined" for me so I had no other options, or at least that is what I thought.
As humans, it can be easy to follow other people or ideas because of security and "safety in numbers". Typically, people are afraid of exploring the unknown and would much rather follow the road most traveled because it is seen as the better road. However, this mindset can be extremely close-minded and one dimensional. I knew people personally who valued traditional ideas and did not like the idea of "what if?". Having conversations with those people drained me and for a long time, I did not even know why. I now understand that people are afraid of what they do not understand.
There are people out there who will try to convince you that life is linear and that you should live it a certain way and to not stray from the "safe and secure" path. That was the mindset that was shoved down my throat since I started middle school. When we are kids they tell us that we can be whatever we want and to chase our dreams but as soon as we turn 18, our dreams are "unrealistic" and that we should aspire to get a real job. It is a damaging way to raise children who are the most impressionable.
If I could go back in time and talk to my middle school self, I would tell her to not be afraid to like the things she does and start exploring her passion and interests now. I would also tell her to not pay attention to what everyone else is doing and to start living the life SHE wants. You do not need to base your life on other people's expectations of you. Do not be afraid to live the life you want to live. Do what you want and be smart about it.