The pomp and circumstance is over, the ensuing party complete. My son has graduated high school! The last half of the year was a battle, not because the classes were hard, but just getting him to get up and go to school was difficult. Somehow, even though he had zero motivation to be there and he put in as little effort as possible, he managed to graduate Magna Cum Laude. Much to the horror of his guidance counselor at school, he has no plans to go to a conventional four year college. I find this quite refreshing and courageous.
There is a sort of unwritten rule these days that you MUST go to college, especially if you’re considered smart in school. Kids are told from the time they hit middle school that you have to go to college if you want to make a decent living and not end up flipping burgers your whole adult life (no offense intended toward any burger flippers out there). There seems to be no choice; you go to college and you’ll get a great job, or you don’t go to college and you’ll be a loser. Granted, you have a better chance of getting a higher paying job with a college education, but as adults with a brain of our own we know this is not an absolute truth. We all know people who went to college and barely scrape by, and we all know people who never went to college or dropped out and are fairly wealthy. Besides, it’s not all about how much money you make, but about how much you like what you do. That seems to be missing in the discussion today.
When I was a senior in high school, I wanted to take a year off and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. It’s not that I didn’t want to go to college, I just didn’t have the money to go where I wanted, as my parents had told me in my senior year that they couldn’t give me any money for college. I also wasn’t sure what I wanted to go for. Well, actually, I did know what I wanted to go to college for, but it wasn’t what my parents, some of my family and friends, most of my teachers and my guidance counselor thought I should be doing. I wanted to be a writer, preferably a sports writer. I thought that would be a great career choice since I loved writing and I loved sports. Plus, I figured if I ever got married, I’d still have to go to the games (Sorry you don’t like me going to the Bruins game, dear, but I have to go. It’s my job!).
I was constantly being told I was too smart to be a writer, that I should be an engineer or an architect because I was very good in math, or I should go into accounting or finance. My thought was that I didn’t want to do any of those things, but I felt pressure from all sides to do something like that. I was also one of those kids that did what my parents told me to do – well, sometimes, but I didn’t like to go against them. I thought if I took a year off, maybe my parents would forget about what they thought I should do and just let me go for what I wanted to do. However, we all somehow came up with the money to pay for my first semester’s tuition and I never took the time to truly explore what I wanted to do.
Fast forward 35 years and here I am doing a job I like but don’t love, and thinking about writing most of the time. And I’ve felt like this for a number of years. So when my kids were small, I swore I wouldn’t push them to do something I wanted them to do or thought they’d be good at, and I would let them choose their career and be what they wanted to be (within reason, of course, I wouldn’t let them be an axe murderer or a drug dealer). So when my daughter told us that she wanted to take some time to figure out what she wanted to do after 3 semesters of college, we totally supported her decision. When she decided to go back to school after a year, we totally supported that decision, too. She’s going for what she wants to do, not what we told her to do. Now my son wants to pursue a career in the music field and I’m totally for it. He may be a musician or a producer – it’s what he wants to do and has a passion for.
I’m proud of both my kids as they make the transition to full-on adulthood. They’re exploring what they want to do with their lives and not letting the masses make them conform to some artificial norm. I wish I had had that kind of strength and courage when I was their age. Who knows, maybe I’d actually love what I do and you’d be reading my book instead of my blog!