NOT going to college was NOT an option for me in my home. I remember that my sisters and I were not allowed to pick the “Skip College and Go to Career” option when playing The Game of Life.
I think it’s absolutely wrong that most 18-year-olds are pressured with picking something they want to major in and do for the rest of their lives. Most people would not force their 18-year-old to marry in America. We’d tell them they’re too young, but when it comes to picking a career choice somehow it’s completely acceptable to think that a child understands enough about themselves to pick a career they’re going to want to wake up to every day.
Growing up I was really sheltered, REALLY REALLY SHELTERED. I was homeschooled, I didn’t have really any neighborhood friends (because I started getting picked on as to why I wasn’t allowed to go to a public school), and my only other form of social interaction with the outside world was my church….which isn’t the best example of what real life is like *thank God*. Being the oldest in my family, I didn’t have many years of play and was given a lot of responsibility. I helped my mother with her home daycare, I often was expected to teach myself in home school, I was asked to help my sisters, I was expected to do chores beyond what was normal because chores often tied in with the daycare. It was a lot for a kid. I didn’t have time to play really. I knew I liked art and writing, but beyond that, there wasn’t much exploration of my life unless it could be done in the confines of my home.
As graduation approached the pressure to chose a career was heavy and it caused me a lot of stress. I wanted to take a year off to just get my bearings, but my parents weren’t going to have anything of it. I was able to get into a University (with a scholarship), but I still had no idea what I wanted to major in *because I hadn’t gotten to understand what I even wanted in life*. My mother wanted me to be a doctor, but the truth is, I know for a fact that wouldn’t have made me happy. The pressure I felt between the desire to find something I loved and could live with as my major coupled with my parents pressuring me to be a doctor lead to some severe depression. I stopped going to class and eventually dropped out with the promise that I would eventually go back….12 years later that hasn’t happened.
I recently thought of going back to get a degree in psychology, only to find myself crying in my therapists office saying things like “This isn’t coming from a place of ‘I want a degree for me’ but rather to insulate myself from all the negative life things that may or may not happen in my life if I DON’T get a degree!”.
So what is my first piece of advice:
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I WISH I had done what I wanted to do originally which is take a year off between high school and college. I wish I had just taken a year to really explore what I wanted to do. Not stay at home and take care of my family and their issues, but to go out and wake up wondering where I wanted to work, what sounded fun and just being self curious.
If you’re a parent, I am begging you from the bottom of my heart that if your kid asks you to let them take a year off to just be, PLEASE GIVE IT TO THEM!!! Yes, they’ll be a year behind all their peers, BUT they might end up with jobs they are truly passionate about and they might become really successful because of that.
If you’re a student, I ask you to use this time WISELY. If your parent has been kind enough to support you during this year of self-exploration DO NOT SQUANDER IT!!! Make a plan or even a list of things you want to learn about and/or accomplish before you start school. Don’t sleep in till 3 pm, don’t make your parents regret giving you this time to learn about yourself. Self-care isn’t being lazy. Self-care is being active in shaping your life and how you want it to be.
Let’s be real here you don’t need a degree to be an artist. My parents both went and graduated from art schools. They were incredibly talented, but the truth is I’ve seen better artists than them on YouTube and those artists are making a lot more money than my parents did because they’re making art and selling it and living the dream. I am an artist and I’ll be honest, if you’re interested in your craft you’re going to be buying books and watching YouTube videos and sketching and doing art regardless if you are in a class or not. Just make sure you’re passionate about what you’re doing.
Art is not the only job like this. Writing, for example, is another job where you don’t necessarily need a degree. I would like to point out that no one asked me if I had a degree in writing or art to create this blog that I love so much. So please make what you love primary and whether you want to get a degree in it secondary.
Some people don’t want to go to college because they don’t want to take classes they will never need or use. I COMPLETELY GET THIS. I am not good at math…and when I say not good, I mean that I might have an undiscovered learning disability in that part of my brain. It’s not interesting, I don’t remember most of it, I don’t like it and I don’t want to learn to like it. PERIOD. So the idea of me taking math classes in college to get a degree in something like writing doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
If you’re also like this, you might want to look into a trade school. Here you’ll take classes about the field you’ll be working in and let me tell you, people can make good money knowing a trade like being a plumber, electrician, or a dental hygenist. Not only can you make good money at it, but if you decided to become just the most amazing plumber there is in your town, then you can consider branching it out into your own business, and THEN and ONLY THEN, may you actually consider going back to school to learn more about business. But you’ll have cash and the direction behind you which is more than I can say for a poor senior in high school with their parents breathing down their neck.
If you are the parent reading this, please know that I can’t speak for how you treat your children. I’m only speaking from my experience in that my parents were very impatient about me and it caused more anxiety than confidence. Also, if your child comes to you wanting to look into a trade school please learn about it with them. People who repair elevators may not sound important, but they make great money, and society needs them in a big way.
If you’re are the student, take your time and research what trade you’d like to do and what a long term goal would look like. Start understanding how much you’d need to make to survive on your own and what having a given trade in your town would do for your life.
This is a big one. It’s truly a make or break request and I’m not asking you to support them financially. I’m asking you to be proud that your kid is even trying to think about a very serious topic in their lives critically. They already know the weight choosing a career might have on their future and even if they act like they don’t care I can promise you THEY DO and they’re probably really scared, nervous, anxious, or even depressed that they might not make the right choice. Please be sympathetic to that. Also, don’t be afraid to just outright talk to them. Their indecisiveness might not have anything to do with you and more to do with the fact that jobs are hard to come by and it seems like more jobs are being automated away all the time. If it does have to deal with you, please be mature, be the adult and listen to them with an open mind. You might find they feel a lot of pressure to make you happy and while they want to do that, it comes in conflict with what they truly love (example my mother wanted me to be a doctor, and I wanted to be an artist like her).
This might be the last time they ask you for advice. Learn with them, get excited with them. Just because they say they want to be a plumber or an artist doesn’t mean that they’re lazy. Being a plumber or an artist is extremely hard work, and that means you’ve raised a hard-working kid. Be proud of them, and let them know you’re proud of them whatever they chose. Even if they realize one day they’ve chosen wrong, they won’t blame you, they’ll remember all the times you backed them, supported them and let them learn a bit about themselves and that is worth more than any paycheck.
I wish all of you parents or students the best of luck this year in your studies or career searches. This is a beautiful opportunity for you both to learn about each other and bond a bit. Please, may neither of you take something like that for granted. 🙂 -Heather Astaneh