On Choosing a College, Career Path…

tealtreeframed1Friend: I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up and my life is half over.

I knew there was a reason we are friends.

Then it hit me. We’re guiding offspring toward college, careers and futures. (Gasp!) Our children are making decisions that will impact the rest of their lives. As adults, we’re guiding them.

Take a look around.

Does it LOOK like we adults know what we’re doing?

My Career (or lack thereof…)

After graduating college, I married, had children, and stayed home to raise them. Divorce changed my plan. The word ‘divorce’ has negative connotations. But really, it’s like getting off one bus and taking a different bus to a new destination. Just a change in path.

My résumé is a crazy mix of full-time jobs and freelance projects. It’s impossible to chronicle where one job ends and another begins, such is the chaotic overlap. I’ve been lucky to have worked for/with wonderful people, have appreciated each opportunity—but I’m not 100% sure where I’m headed.

And now it’s my job to guide two young adults?  God help us…

True Story:

A job presented itself a couple of weeks ago. It intrigued me, so I applied; agreed to an interview to see if the job, company, and I were suited for each other.

Interviewer: If you could go back to the beginning of your career, what might you do differently?

My (Brilliant?) Response: Nothing.

Interviewer: So, No regrets?

Me: No regrets.

I did elaborate. Gave solid reasons for having no regrets; that my choices led to my current place, tied that to my suitability for the position. I refrained from admitting that I loved every walk in the woods with my children, gathering rocks and leaves outdoors, biking to get ice cream, all the moments and memories. Perhaps they wouldn’t have seen the value in those years?

Common Advice from the Adult Contingent…

Go to college, but don’t overspend: Don’t go heavily into debt for a major/degree that offers only a slim chance of a job, or a job that won’t pay enough to satisfy college loans. What if that nixes a students’ chosen career, the thing they dream of doing? What if pursuing a major in a high paying field is highly competitive, stressful, and miserable? And that’s before even getting out of college. What about those pressured into college who would prefer a trade, or another path?

Do something you love: We often encourage our children to do something they’re good at, that they enjoy. (See above) Sometimes our best skills are difficult to monetize, or for the workplace to value. For example, I’m good at creating art with items (i.e. rocks, sticks, rusty metal) found outdoors and stringing words together in a pleasing fashion. My kids have ridden that bus with me; watched me wrestle that into making sense. It’s challenging that my talents are better suited to hobbies, than a career.

Use sports to pay for college:  College sports require the same dedication as academics. It can be difficult to schedule co-ops/internships, or manage more rigorous courses of study. My son is working this out now; he needs a college major that works with a track schedule, yet provides a future career. In college, they fly to meets—he cannot be in class and in another state at the same time. Injury is also a consideration.

What if there is no right way to choose a college, career path? What if the path is ever evolving over a lifetime?

On Aiming Low

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Per NCAA statistics, there are over 1 million high school football players. Only 6.5% will play in college, with 1.5% of those ever being drafted into the NFL. Even then, chances of NFL success are ridiculously small, but isn’t that the case with so many things in life?

Do we really want to teach our children to think small? That taking chances, or chasing dreams is a waste of time? If everybody played the odds, made choices based solely on logic and common sense– discounted as options ALL things with minimal possibility of success, what would happen?

We’d still be riding horses instead of driving cars. There would be no Apple Computer. Or brilliant structures by Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry. Imagine the books never written? Songs, movies, art never created. The businesses never started. The lack of medical advancements, diseases without cure.  Forget about Olympic medals…

I’d love for my children to have easy paths, to never experience failure, or obstacles—yet I know that those things will shape them, pave the way for future success. I want them to take some chances, chase dreams.

What comforts me? Eases the pressure?

My children aren’t listening to my advice anyway.

They nod their heads when I speak, then go about things their way. And really, that’s fine. Who am I to choose their path, or tell them which bus to take? Can’t do it. Can only love them, support their choices.

Many thanks to my friend for sending my brain down this path. I needed a few more things to think about…

1st Day of School Pictures …

THROWBACK POST: Originally posted in August of 2012. These are my favorite back to school pictures. Love them! Love these children. 

In many cities it’s the first day of school…

There are smiling faces all over Facebook this morning. Children in new clothes. With backpacks. And sports bags. Ready to go.

This year both of my children are in high school. One starting as a Freshman. One finishing up as a Senior. And today was their first day.

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What is wrong with this picture? And these children?

They weren’t in the mood to do 1st Day of School pictures. The ones I take on the front steps every year.

I tried to get them to coöperate. Asked them to turn around. So they did.

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But with their eyes closed.

And it wasn’t planned. They both sort of turned their backs to me when I pulled out the camera. Then I asked them to turn around. So they did. But with their eyes shut.

Classic Daughter & Son move. Also classic that they worked together, without words…

So all the other parent’s have ‘nice’ pictures of their kids heading of to school.

And I’ve got these beauties for the family photo album…

Thoughts on Raising a Gifted Athlete

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My son is competing at the state track meet in Pole Vault tomorrow morning. He is a gifted athlete. And that’s all very well. But it has nothing to do with me. At the spring awards banquet last week, he was … Continue reading

Anybody Want to be Tagged In?

100_3082There are days I want to TAG somebody else IN.

Like in wrestling, when one person gets tired, they tag their partner in to keep going. Then hop out of the ring, rest, and regroup.

I want to hop out of the ring from time to time.

But as a single parent, that really isn’t an option. Some days are hard. Wearing.

There is no balance.

There are days when my house is clean, laundry is caught up, groceries are shopped for and dinner is on the table on time.  From the outside, the lawn is mowed and the yard looks pretty. The bills are paid, budget organized.

There are days when I’m an excellent parent. When I have meaningful conversations with the children about their future goals, college plans, and their dreams. Where I read and perhaps help edit an assignment. When I’m everything a parent should be.

There are days when I’m a super working woman. When I have a great meeting, am part of putting together a spectacular event, or of submitting an exceptional grant proposal. Where I feel I’ve accomplished something in my role as Communications Director for a local nonprofit. Or when I’ve gained a new skill, or landed a freelance project.

But…

None of those days happen together. 

Many years ago, I expected to succeed in all areas of my life. On a daily basis. (Hah!)

I have no such illusions seven years into being a single parent.

When my house is organized and looking great, I’m barely hanging on with the kids. When I’m having a stellar work day, attending an evening meeting or banging out a ten-hour day, I’m returning home to chaos. Dinner will NOT be on the table, my son will have long since run out for takeout or fast food. I won’t have the juice to edit a paper, or string together a sentence. Forget about meaningful conversations.

As a married woman, I could to TAG somebody else IN. These days, there is an ex husband living about 30 minutes away in a nearby suburb. In theory, this might offer a break. But it rarely works out that way.

Kids tend to lean on one parent after a divorce. Being that I’m the Mom, and I was a homemaker for almost 15 years, my kids are used to coming to me when they need something, when they are sick, but also to celebrate the good stuff. The dynamic was set many years ago, long before the divorce, when the children were young.

They’re used to having me provide them a home, a soft place to land. And I love doing it. It’s a big part of who I am. Over the years,  I’ve logged many shining moments of parenting excellence.

Then there are the other times…

katie mom gradDarling Daughter and her very long-term boyfriend broke up a couple of weeks into summer, just after her freshman year of college. She and the young man began dating during eighth grade, dated for almost six years.  Though Daughter felt it was the right decision for both, she was devastated. Would quietly go up to her bedroom to sob in private.  The timing was terrible for me. I was beyond busy at work, the house was falling apart.

I would love to say I was supportive, loving, all that a mother should be.

That would be a lie.

Three days into her routine, I’d had enough. I marched upstairs, busted into her bedroom and told her crying was fine, but could she please “cry and move the laundry, vacuüm and cry, empty the dishwasher and cry? Could it be a productive crying?”

I’ll never live that down.

A good mother would have hugged her, comforted her, baked her some cookies, made her a cup of tea, listened patiently, asked her if she needed anything, or taken her to lunch. Anything would have been better than my handling of the situation.

“Three days. That’s all I got,” Darling Daughter still says, “I stopped the crying. I was terrified Mom was going to come slamming into my bedroom, yelling again.”

My children are two of the greatest joys of my life. And yet, there are times it would be great to TAG somebody else IN. Anybody would be more effective than me, sometimes.

I’ve learned that I’m not usually spectacular in every area of my life. There are glimmers in different areas, on different days. But I cannot do it all, every single day.

The best I can hope for is that someday, there will be a partner; somebody to TAG IN when I’m spent.  Who might show up with dinner, take the car for an oil change, and have meaningful conversation with the children when they’re tired of what I have to say.

Until then, I suppose I’ll muddle through…

Expensive vs. Cheap(er) College ???

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Since I’m on the topic of college (see yesterdays blog post), lets address the burning question for parents… How much should we spend? Or let our children spend? I promised a friend weeks ago that I would blog on this topic. … Continue reading