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

pole vault

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…

Choosing a College (Ugh.)

Darling Daughter is nearing the end of her senior year. The process she’s traveled to choose a college has been filled with special moments. Darling Daughter has 24 days until May 1st. (All high school seniors must choose by May 1st)

May 1st looms like Doomsday in our house…

Harvard

Out for lunch last week with Daughter and Aunt Kate:

Aunt Kate: Where does your Dad think you should go?

Daughter: Doesn’t matter. Don’t care what he thinks.

Aunt Kate: What about you? (Aunt Kate looked at me)

Daughter: I don’t care what she thinks, either.

Aunt Kate looked a little stunned…

Me: I’m fine with that. She’s the one who has to go to college.

(The sooner the better…)

Aunt Kate: But what if they’re paying?

Daughter: Still doesn’t matter. I’ll find a way to pay, if I need to.

Me: Her dad and I wouldn’t do that, anyway. Wouldn’t withhold money to sway her.

Darling Daughter wasn’t being snotty, but she’s been struggling to make a good decision. Her Dad and I will support that choice–And do our best to contribute to the cost.

When Daughter responded to those questions, I thought…”Good for her. She knows her own mind—she has backbone, confidence and strength in her convictions. She’s willing to stick with her decision and what she thinks is right for her, no matter what that costs her.”

Truthfully, that makes me more comfortable sending her off to college. College is expensive—I want to send a child who wants to go badly enough to incur the cost. Even if the cost is to her. Badly enough to step up and tell me where she wants to go and why she wants to go there.

Many will disagree with me. They’d argue I know more than she does, that I know what’s right for her.

Maybe. Maybe not. Yes. I’ve got experience. But its MY experience. I need to step back and let Daughter accumulate HER own life experiences.

Those who have known Daughter since birth know that she’s strong, has always known her own mind. Convincing her to do things has never worked. (Or at least not with good results…)

There would be hell to pay if I tried to talk her into a college or major—and she hated it!! I can’t imagine the next 30 years of holiday’s, or shouldering the blame for the job she despised. Because it was all my idea?

No thank you. I’ll let her decide. Others with strong-willed children will understand.

Georgetown1imagesCAAF7IS2Funny story…

Or maybe NOT so funny. About 15 years ago, Aunt Kate’s good friend had two boys–both graduated from college. One from John Carroll University. One from Cleveland State University. Both studied accounting. At the time, Aunt Kate’s son was set to attend John Carroll—an expensive, private university.

Aunt Kate: Please tell me that the one who graduated from John Carroll is doing BETTER…

Friend: Nope. They’re both doing the SAME.

Both were equally successful, earning similar  salaries. Even  though one chose Cleveland State, at a fraction of the cost of John Carroll–the private university.

The newest decision-making tool?

photo.jpg

A giant dry erase board. It’s 3 feet x 5 feet. Daughter dragged it home last weekend after talking with a family friend. I was in bed, sleeping and was jolted awake by the sound of the board slapping up against my bedroom wall. Darling Daughter launched into an explanation. I blinked. Hard. (More than once…) Tried to pay attention…

Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful for the parenting assist, but I probably didn’t need the details at 1:00 a.m…

What’s on the board? SWOT diagrams. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats for the colleges still in contention. (Thankfully, some schools are crossed out…) There’s also the ominous Red Box that changes daily,  showing the countdown to May 1st.

I’m considering a bonfire on May 1st. We can toss ALL college pamphlets, brochures, letters, scholarship notices into the fire pit and light it up.  Maybe roast some marshmallows in honor of the occasion.

From there, we’re not looking back…

The past few weeks have been tense. When I speak, I annoy Daughter. When we make eye contact, I annoy her. My breathing is more than she can tolerate. This is unusual, we typically get along wonderfully well.

Just recently, I’ve learned that other parents are in the same situation.

Perhaps we parents should swap children. I could send Daughter elsewhere and take in somebody else’s child. We could stay with this plan until May 1st, when all children would return home to peace and harmony.

I cannot believe I didn’t come up with this simple solution sooner.

At least I know what to do in a few years, if Son goes through this phase…