the-dread-pirate-roberts

Spring means many things – renewal, the promise of a fresh start, the fragrance of blossoming flowers – but for the under-20 crowd the only scent during this time of year is the reek of fear sweat and desperation.

Yes, it’s graduation season. Welcome to the real world, kids.

Appropriately, I’ve been chatting with lots of parents (as a 40-ish fellow, I know precious few college-age folks anymore) who have kids either headed to college or making their way into the real world. A common thread among those headed to college is “What shall I study,” while the folks leaving college are asking themselves, “What now?”

The sad truth is that with the current state of the higher educational system, seemingly designed to force students into bone-crushing long-term debt, and the slow recovery of the economy, the post college financial situations are dire and the job prospects limited.

Of course, before you even get to the graduating part of college, there’s the decision on what to study. This is the real challenge for many, who have arrived at the age of 17 or 18 simply not having any idea what they’d like to do for a career.

Part of this, I’m convinced, is the result of kids starting to work later in their teen years than many of us did in the past. Not to get all “back in the day” on you, but a few decades back it seemed like there was a lot less pressure on kids to build impressive resumes before their 16th birthdays in order to dazzle college admissions officers. Personally, I worked – a lot. I was mowing neighborhood lawns at 13, working in a display shop by 15 and slinging pizzas at 17.

But starting at the age of 10 or so, I knew that as a career I’d like to have a job telling stories. At one point that manifested itself as a desire to be a film director. Later, convinced that my voice and sense of humor could help me in working world, I had thoughts of being a radio broadcaster. That eventually morphed into print journalism, and here I sit after 15 years in the newspaper business, 11 years as a freelance writer and five years as a published novelist.

But in all those years of trying to find myself, I was blessed by parents who never, ever said, “You can’t do that,” or “We won’t let you do that” or “Everyone in our family must do this.” They understood that happiness doesn’t come from a job that will guarantee you a big house and an expensive car or that has a legacy attached. Instead, they understood that it comes from know that you’re putting the talents and tendencies you’ve developed up to that point into practice in a way that you find rewarding, and that you’re hopefully getting paid for, too.

The beauty of living when we do is that there are so many opportunities to do exactly what you think you might want to do. If you love it – no matter how counter intuitive or unconventional it sounds, chances are someone will pay you to do it.

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