Forks in the road make great analogies for the moment when we make a decision - or fate makes a decision for us - and our life can go one of several ways. But why's the road where it is in the first place? Who built it there? Who decided that's where it needs to be and where it needs to go?
We we have this idea that there's a certain schedule that everybody has to follow, but we seldom actually examine the whole notion to see if it makes any sense or holds any water. Everyone has to start school by five. Or.... what? If a child is lagging socially, emotionally, physically or cognitively behind their peers, is it going to be helpful to put them in an environment which largely revolves around assessment and performance, where they have to compete against children with better tools in their box? Would it really be the end of the world to give them time to catch up?
I made it through school "on schedule" - albeit with a great deal of crying into my homework because I was just so tired - started uni "on schedule" too, when I left school at 18. I did well academically, but didn't really do anything much at all socially for those three years. That's how I was able to succeed academically - every shred of my energy went into it, there was none left for socialising even had I had the desire and known where to start. I had to choose, and I chose the one that would ultimately leave me burnt out, exhausted, with very little in the way of a social circle and no real life outside work... but Independent. Unhappy and unfulfilled and lonely, but Independent. A Success.
Who says that being able to work full time is the highest ideal of modern life? Who says that if you need to work part time to manage your energy levels, or you can't work at all, you're a failure? Who says if you're not paying tax you're a drain on society? Since when have we measured the worth of a human being in dollars?
Who says that living alone and existing without help something to aspire to? Who says that you're a lesser person if you need help with your laundry or cleaning or cooking or finances or personal care? Who says that if you live with your parents beyond some arbitrary point - let's say your 20th birthday - you're lazy, or feckless, or a grifter?
Because whoever said that can go fuck themselves.
There is more to life than struggling to cope with the demands of a task (be it work, uni, school, whatever) that's more than you can handle, because that's the only way to prove you deserve to exist. Than being constantly exhausted and lonely because your every shred of energy goes towards maintaining that task, because that's the one thing that determines if you're a success or a failure.
I've spent so long walking down that particular road. And if that's what success is, if that's the only way to be seen as successful in the eyes of the world, I'm ready to embrace failure.
Image: Crossroads, from the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland on Flickr Commons