The other night, my 15 year old daughter asked, "Can we talk about my future?" I typically love these sorts of dreamy conversations so I said, "Of course!". This wasn't one of those dreamy ones. This one started with tears. "I don't know what I want to do for a career.", she said with teary, wet eyes. My first reaction was to laugh and say, "Sweetie, it's ridiculous that you even think you should know right now!" but fortunately, I held that in and just said, "Tell me about it."
What I discovered is that many of her friends already do know and are already making plans to go to the right college and do the right internships so they can get the right job.
I've gotta tell you - this is terrifying to me.
My daughter is just old enough to ride her bike to the Target a few miles away and maybe take the city bus on her own during broad day light. How would I expect that with her 15 years of sheltered life experience, she would ever yet know what she wants to be when she grows up?!?!
It's true that this was the messaging I was given when I was younger. College was never an option (at least not in my mind). And most of what I did in high school was done with an understanding that it would some day look great on a college application. And yep, I did go to college right out of high school and stayed for four years and graduated at the top of the dot-com boom and got a job and....
I fell into a career that paid the bills. I'm grateful that this wasn't the end of my story. I was fortunate to be able to go back to school for homeopathy while also being a stay-at-home mom during their early years. But my story is unique. Many people don't get this sort of do-over without some sort of massive life change and a gigantic lifestyle shift.
So what did I say to my daughter as I held her that night? I reassured her that the best way to figure out what she wants to do is to first figure out herself. Take a gap year. Give yourself time away from studies and explore the world. Try out careers in areas that you love through internships and shadowing. Read the Global Student and see how other kids are creating their college experience in a totally different (and less expensive) way.
Take time, my love.
So parents, I know that it can be hard to let go of expectations and assurances of financial success. But this is the time to remember that really, what you want your child to be is - happy. Money, wealth and the "right career" are not going to make them happy. It doesn't make most successful people happy - the internet is full of these stories. If we want our children to have a great career and a happy life, we need to foster their passions. I am certain that if our children go out into the world with a drive to create, develop and lead that is grounded in their own passion, success is the only result that is possible. True happiness in their work can only come from this energy.
Consider that the best encouragement you can give your child is to connect to their deepest sense of self and find their inner light, their inner passion. From there, anything is possible.
**This post was published with my daughter's permission. I would like to thank her for her willingness to share her experience.
Gap Year Association: https://www.gapyearassociation.org
The New Global Student - Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition and Get a Truly International Education: https://www.amazon.com/New-Global-Student-Thousands-International-ebook/dp/B0028WG4XK
TEDx UW - Larry Smith, Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career:
Rotary Youth Exchange: https://www.rotary.org/en/our-programs/youth-exchanges