I was lost as a teenager and lurched between college, the job centre, unemployment, but through good fortune I found my way into a passion and career and now, in my 30s, I am happy with my life. That said, if you’d asked me at 18… or 21… or 25… what I’d be doing in my 30s, I wouldn’t have been able to say with any confidence, despite the fact that the thing I was doing in my 20s is what I’m doing in my 30s.
I think what I’m trying to say is that for some people, goals and ambition and careers aren’t the right model for their life. From the outside, I have a great career that I’ve built over the last decade, but I don’t think of it as a career nor do I think of life as a series of steps towards something greater… I just wake up each day and do whatever makes me happy. If, tomorrow, I wake up and realise I don’t want to do what I did yesterday, I’ll just do something else: from the outside that might look like starting over, but that isn’t how it would feel to me.
I’m not a parent so I can’t relate to the need to help a child, but I can relate to the need to help the people in my life. I think there’s a rational-but-unhelpful need for our help to be tangible in some way, we bias towards things (like obtaining a national insurance number, or submitting a job application) rather than feelings (encouragement, kindness, empathy) because it’s easy to measure progress through tangibles and difficult to measure progress through feelings.
So I’d say, despite it perhaps feeling futile and difficult to measure, you might find greater success with a focus on emotional support and set aside tangibles like a national insurance number, or a career plan. If she’s spending her days miserable and struggling with anxiety, then certainly you might need to intervene (caveat: I’d argue the intervention there is more emotional support) but if she’s happy (even if happiness to her is doing nothing for a bit) then so be it.
As an aside, I wouldn’t say I resent my parents for demanding I “do something” with my life (which manifested itself as being forced to go to college) but I don’t have a relationship with them today and part of that is because there were years of constant anger and frustration and upset which often revolved around me getting kicked out of college etc. I can’t even begin to imagine how I’d have turned out if the pandemic had happened during my formative years, I hope young people get a great deal of time and support to process it.