Wednesday, May 29, 2024

What Happens After Graduation is What Really Counts


What Happens After Graduation is What Really Counts

Sam Houston is a syndicated columnist and newspaper executive. He is also an author, playwright, actor, and entertainment producer/promoter.

We are getting precariously close to the start of graduation season. Just another couple of weeks and our high school seniors will walk across the stage, receive their diploma, and move onto the next chapter of their lives. It is an exciting time for family and friends and sometimes a little overwhelming for graduates.

So many questions are directed at the graduates as to their “plans”, for the future and would seem the expectations of the world are laid at their doorstep. “Where are you going to school? What do you want to become? “. These are questions which we elders repeatedly throw into conversations with young people. After the first 100 or so inquiries, I can imagine some graduates might wish they should wear a sign around their neck declaring their intentions, to avoid yet another recitation.

Of course, the questions are asked with good intentions and genuine concern about the student, but why is there so much focus on a “plan”. Is it because society compels graduates to have a plan? Do we place pressure on graduates and imply they must know how they want to spend the rest of their life? Why is there such a rush to decide? Is some of the concept of “the plan” to benefit parents, so they can tell their friends and family their child’s lofty goals and receive affirmation they have done a good job as a parent?

I had ideas of what I wanted to do with my life when I graduated high school but thank goodness, I had a degree of self-awareness and on occasion, took the road less traveled. Instead of only doing what I knew would please my parents or fulfill the expectations of my inner circle of family and friends, I gave myself the gift of exploring the world around me and trying to find the place which was the best fit. Now nearly 50 years later, I still frequently take the road less traveled and will go to my grave, happy I have done so.

But my choices are not the best choice for everyone. I do admire people who, for example, decide they want to be a veterinarian in the third grade. They study furiously through high school and college to make the grade, enter vet school to get their advanced education, and then spend the next 40 to 50 years doing the task which they have been trained in.  Their lives must be uncomplicated because of their dedication to one purpose, and one goal. If such a person feels fulfilled and satisfied with their life choice, more power to them.

Alternatively, I have witnessed many people in life who spent years of time and a fortune in dollars to “become” something, and once they achieved their goal, did not really enjoy where they landed. Young people can become enamored with a vision or fantasy of their future, and when the reality of life comes to pass, they can find the dream did not fulfill them as they expected.

Life only happens once. We will all make at least a few poor “life choices” during our time on earth, but decisions about careers are one of the major decisions in all of life; right up there with whom to marry and whether to have children. It is best to have eyes wide open and be as certain as possible on how to spend those precious hours which make up our lives.

Graduates, have a plan, but keep your options open. Look around and see if the vision of life you have imagined is truly the one you want to have. Every occupation has its rewards and its drawbacks. There will be challenges in every job, and you alone must determine if the challenges of a specific career are something you wish to face. Life is long. You will grow and learn as you gain experience. Do not be afraid to reconsider or change from your original “plan”. Alternatively, don’t be afraid to stick to a plan if it is what you truly wish for yourself. The grass is not always greener.

Thought for the day: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward: you can only connect them looking backward. You must trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Steve Jobs.

Until next time…I will keep ridin’ the storm out.