When you are young, everything seems possible. The future is nothing but a blank canvas where you can paint on any colour you like. You can be whoever you want because nothing has been defined yet. There are so many options, opportunities, possibilities opening up in front of you. You’re promised the world, only the best of the best, and no matter what circumstance you are in, it does feel like things are going to change and you can be anything. You’ll get there, you tell yourself confidently, you’ll be one of the outstanding ones, not the dead fish who follow the stream. The dream feels right. It must be right.

Then you grow up a little and bits and bits of that canvas start to be filled with school reports, exam results, body shape and job title, which might not align with your dream at all. You see more of yourself, the actual self, the self that is made from daily routines and life choices and moment after moment, and your cloud of possibility suddenly becomes more finite. Your future is no longer a blank canvas. It’s taking shape now. It’s being defined. You’re becoming something. The story of your life is being written and you have already passed a good few chapters.

You now know that you will never be a Disney child star, or a Harvard graduate, or a world-famous ballerina. Your narrative has a very specific background, a background that opens up a few certain paths you could choose from. You finish school, you take the offer of your first real job, you know practically what the next 5 years would look like, and it can be very different from what you had imagined yourself to be at that point in time. You won’t be making millions, you won’t be living in a chic condo in the heart of the city, you won’t be the next youngest president. You wake up, you go to work, you go home, you go to the gym sometimes, you watch some Netflix, you go to sleep, and the cycle repeats.

Some days are better than others, it’s not all bad. It’s actually good. You’re progressing, your saving account is increasing little by little. You look around and realise you’ve been used to this way of life for a while and you know realistically it’s going to be more or less this way. You can’t really imagine how it could be so drastically different unless you win a lottery or become an overnight internet sensation, which is possible but very unlikely. You’ve done your maths. Your best bet is on an improved version of this daily life. Maybe a higher-paid job, a bigger flat, a more expensive-looking wardrobe, a more impressive LinkedIn profile, visiting enough countries that you could call yourself well-traveled. You know you’re already privileged than most.

But then you look around again, with that vision in mind, and you think, is this all there is? Is this all that life has got to offer me? Is this all I’ll ever experience? Is this all there is to me? You’re deeply scared. It dawns on you that your dream might actually never come true. You were promised the world but this is what you end up with. You might well be another average human who is forever living in the shadow of your own potential. Till one day, probably somewhere in your mid-forties, you just have to accept the mediocre reality of who you’ve lived to be. There’s no potential; there’s just you. So, you’re depressed. You feel cheated. You’ve never been prepared for this. You’ve constantly been fed the idea of how special you are, how much you have to offer, how you’re going to be so extraordinary — NOT this.

But this is it. This is the reality. This is all that you have, cumulatively to this point. Inherently, your reality is neither good nor bad. It isn’t amiss. It just is. You’ve arrived here now, and given that life can only be lived forward, not backward, this present is always your best bet. What perhaps went wrong was the fact that you grew up with more expectation than curiosity — the far-fetched expectation of yourself and of life itself. You’re not scared of failing. You’re scared of failing yourself. This isn’t the world’s problem no matter how fucked up it is. It’s you who have never given yourself the permission to be you, to be human, to even be average. You can’t get over the idea that you have to be special, to be extraordinary. You can’t allow yourself to believe that being you, right now, is enough, is worthwhile. You’re rushed by an inexplicable urge to be something more even though you don’t really know what and how. Why though? And for what?

So yes, this is all there is, for this moment. Panicking about it doesn’t help. Accepting it does. Accepting it, most importantly, will free you. What you might not realise is that while your mind is spinning with anxious thoughts about who you should be or should not be, your reality hasn’t changed, not all that much. This is still your best bet. I know it’s scary to really look at yourself and what you actually do with your every hour of the day — NOT what you would do, should do, plan to do or like to do — and understand this is it, this is you and nothing more. But it’s the starting point and you need it. It might well be your key to actually becoming something more as you stop letting your mind distracted by worries and obsessions but actually focus on putting in the work to get what you want.

However, it doesn’t mean it’s bad to be hopeful, optimistic and ambitious and look forward to the future. This is all there is for now but you don’t know what will happen next. You just don’t. You can predict it but there’s no way you can tell for sure. The most you can do is try your best and see what comes out of it. Being hopeful, optimistic and ambitious, in fact, will give you good energy and push you forward. See, you didn’t choose your parents, choose how you look, choose your childhood — the factors that altogether have a tremendous impact on the life you turn out to lead. So cut yourself some slack, accept who you’re and have fun with what you have. After all, what’s the better option really?