As I mentioned last week, my oldest baby just graduated High School. As hard as it is for me to believe that I’m old enough to be the parent of a High School graduate; it’s even harder to comprehend that the little five pound peanut I could fit into the palm of my hand, the shy little girl with Hermione hair and the mischievous grin, my duet partner who used to sing Disney tunes with me (“I Just Can’t Wait to be King” was one of our favorites) is now a fully functioning adult who can sign a contract and own property and choose not to vote.
Since I am her Dad, I want to provide her with words of wisdom garnered from a lifetime of experience. And because she is my daughter (especially because she’s my daughter), she’ll roll her eyes, sigh heavily, and ignore virtually everything I say. So I’ve decided I would post it on this here Interweb thing, where it will remain forever to embarrass her and her descendants for generations to come. So here we go:
This is the part where the old guy is supposed to say “Plan for the future.”
There’s nothing wrong with that. But as a recent HS graduate, you are that wonderful stage where you’re old enough for most freedoms, but still far away from many of the responsibilities and obligations that mark later adulthood. So enjoy it, take risks, try new things you never thought you would do. That’s not to say you have to show up on a “Girls Gone Wild” video (please don’t), but there are tons of things you can do that don’t involve getting drunk and lifting up your shirt. Your job for the next few years is to find out what they are.
If your college has a study abroad program, jump on it. If your new friend lives in another state and offers to put you up over a weekend, go for it. If a bunch of friends decide they want to drive cross-country over spring break, drive on. You’re at an age where your back can handle sleeping in a car or a hotel room floor, and eating ramen for a week won’t put you into cardiac arrest, so take advantage and build memories that will last a lifetime.
There’s nothing wrong with working a part time job so you can have some cash on hand. But keep it part time. Some of the things that seem so important now, won’t be ten years from now, especially something like a new car. You’re going to be working 50 hours a week for most of your life, there’s nothing wrong with delaying that for a little while…and that car that seemed worth the overtime when you’re 18 will be worth nothing when you’re twenty-nine. The experiences you build, however, are priceless.
Dare to Dream
Conventional wisdom says go to school and study something that will get you a high paying job. I call bullshit on that one. Money is nice, but it’s not everything. Go to school to help discover what you love and who you want to be. Find something you can imagine doing twenty years from now. Just remember, what you love at 18 may be much different at 25 or 40, so make sure you cast a wide net and learn a little of everything. And taking a few business courses is never a bad idea.
Cultivate the Dream
Finding what you love is only the first step. There is a real world out there and eventually you’ll need to be part of it, but make it on your terms. Use all of the resources at your disposal to find out what careers call to you, research companies that interest you, build connections with internships and job fairs and workshops. We live in an age with an almost infinite supply of information at our fingertips, take advantage of it. There will always be opportunities out there for people with talent and drive.
Well that’s it. Will this advice work for everyone? Well individual situations – income, personality, motivators – are different, but I’m romantic enough to think that if you try, everyone can find a way to build memories and find a path to what they love.” And if I’m wrong, you’re welcome to the attic bedroom for as long as you need it, or until you turn thirty, which ever comes first.