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…

Thank God it’s Monday…

nowOnce known for my catlike reflexes, I stumbled into this past weekend on crutches, clanking and clattering—dropping F-bombs. Or so Darling Daughter claimed.

My first meniscus surgery was 5 years ago. My second was last Thursday. Same knee. A little more banged up than the last time, but it went well.  My knee swelled like a balloon on Friday, and there was no getting comfortable, but I figured I’d relax over the weekend.  Not sure what I was thinking.

This isn’t a quiet place, especially on weekends.

Ever the optimist, I went to bed early on Saturday night; heard my Son come in, quietly turn on the oven for his late night snack and let the dogs out. Son and Darling Daughter chatted in hushed tones and I drifted back to sleep.

BEEEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEEEP.

As the smoke detector in the kitchen sounded, Grace (my mutt), dove under the blankets near my head. I patted her, blocked it out.

Son mumbled something to his sister about pepperoni dropped in the oven. He opened windows, cranked the ceiling fans, ventilated the downstairs. We live in a Cape Cod home and my master bedroom is (unfortunately) downstairs; the other bedrooms are upstairs. Ugh! The kitchen, bathroom and back door are just outside of my bedroom.

BEEEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEEEP. Smoke alarm started up again…

The Red Dog (Rocky) desperately wanted in bed. Surrounded by 150 pounds of trembling, terrified dogs, I was officially awake. Son peeked into my room.

SON: Can I put the ceiling fan on?

ME: Why not?

SON: Want me to crack a window in here? It’s really smoky…

ME:  How cold is it out?

SON: Cold.

He cracked a window and I burrowed under the blankets.

BEEEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEEEP.

The smoke alarm just over my bed joined the party. Darling Daughter was not happy. Son (laughing by then) tried to get a handle on the situation…

The Red Dog was in panic mode. He stood up, swung himself around—and knocked Grace off the bed. It was hysterical. He burrowed under my pillow. Grace quickly scrambled back into bed.  And I shook—with laughter.

I grabbed my metal crutches, headed out of the bedroom. Our tiniest dog, Little Lola, was hiding under the bed. Busy protecting my injured knee as the bigger dogs danced around the bed, I hadn’t noticed.

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The Dachshund was undeterred.

He stayed in the kitchen, kept an eye on the oven, waited for the French bread pizza to emerge. He held firm in a plume of smoke, in position to grab crumbs–or maybe he was short enough to not notice?  The animal has focus. Knows his priorities.  Which is probably why Dash is a sturdy little wiener dog.

I rounded the corner to the living room, smacking things with my crutches and there was Darling Daughter, burrowed into the couch under a heap of blankets. With the ceiling fans on full speed, front dogs couchdoor and windows open, it was cold. Her sweatshirt hood was over her head, drawstring pulled tight so that her face was hidden.

And I got it. She couldn’t breathe in the haze of smoke. It was like an indoor bonfire—with no fire, just smoke from the pepperoni sizzling at the bottom of the oven.

The dogs, kids and I gathered in the living room and talked while the house aired out. Son ate his snack.  Darling Daughter and I went to bed at around 2:30 am.

Sleeping in isn’t an option anymore.

Not since last spring when the neighbors got 12 chickens. The rooster did his thing on Sunday morning and the hens started laying eggs shortly afterwards. I had no idea hens were so vocal when laying eggs. But they seem like good chickens, right on schedule every day at the crack of dawn.

Not wanting to get out of bed, I settled in for a Flea Market Flip marathon—until Darling Daughter got under the covers. Son rolled the computer chair over, rested his legs on my bed, wound the dogs up, switched the channel, and turned the TV on and off. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I sent him off with my debit card to get breakfast.

As we gathered around the dining room table, he played with his sisters’ tea paraphernalia; popped open lids, tasted tea leaves, took the top off of her fancy, brand new $200 cast iron teapot. He’s the only person who could get away with that. When they’re together, they delight in winding me up. A college student on an engineering co-op, she’s home on weekends this semester–meaning they tease and torture me every weekend.

No idea why I expected to nurse my knee over a weekend.

ME (to Son): Please stop talking.

SON: I haven’t stopped talking.

DARLING DAUGHTER (to her brother): I’m so entertained.  This makes me very happy. I miss you.

The conversation continued, as Darling Daughter and Son looked over his Common App for college; he had asked her to review it.

DARLING DAUGHTER: When was your divorce final? Month and Year?

ME: No idea. I can look it up…

SON: Yes, when was our family destroyed? (And they were off, laughing, utterly amused…)

DARLING DAUGHTER: What’s your occupation?

SON: I always struggle with that question…

DARLING DAUGHTER: Should we put mom as a semi-skilled worker?

DARLING DAUGHTER (to me): Let’s not oversell you.

They continued on, mostly like I wasn’t there—having a great time.

By then I was desperate to leave. Decided to run errands. Loaded up my crutches and got the hell out…

And on this beautiful Monday, I’m enjoying peace and quiet. Finally.

Of course, it all ends between 5:30 and 6:00 pm each day–but I’ll take what I can get.

And truly, I’ve learned to love Monday.


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