Doesn’t it come to a point where you want to sucker-punch every aunt, grandma and friend who asks “What are you going to do after you graduate?” Some of you have plans, but if you’re like me, you don’t. And saying “I’m going to work” doesn’t have much of a ring to it, does it?
I’m here to tell you: that’s just fine. You don’t have to have a good answer.
I was ejected from my safe, homeschool haven at seventeen, found a job at a meat packing plant and moved out. It was the definition of a dead-end job, but I made the most of it. It was just an interim job, but interim to what I didn’t know.
There is the odd, fortunate soul who knows just what they want when they graduate. But it seems most of us haven’t a hot clue. So we do like I did and get the first available job, or we take ‘University One’ or, if you’re of the Evangelical stripe, we go to Bible School hoping to ‘find God’s will for our lives.’ We were meant for something, our parents said when we were in kindergarten—to be firemen, musical divas, astronauts and presidents. So we watch, and wait.
That’s how people get three degrees, I think—psychology, kinesiology and a bachelor of arts. Not that I wouldn’t like to get three degrees. If I could get paid to go to school, I’d be well on my way to a doctorate in something.
Hmm… Dr. Geralyn Wichers. I like that.
But I digress.
Winston Churchill said:
“To each there comes in their lifetime a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.”
Waiting is inevitable. I think it’s unreasonable to ask a seventeen-year-old to decide what they want to ‘do’ for the rest of their lives. Most graduates can’t even write a grocery list, never mind a plan for their lives (no offense—I couldn’t either). If I’m reading Churchill right, the key is not knowing what you want, but preparing for when it comes. ‘When my ship comes in, I’m going to know how to sail’ kinda thing.
You can’t learn everything about something from a book—I know that. I’ve read marriage books and listened to talks on marriage and family, and I even took a college course on the subject, but I expect to run a pretty steep learning curve if I ever marry.
However, the experiences you have while you are young: travelling, reading, studying, volunteering—read: learning, learning LEARNING—lay a foundation for your life. The more of these things you do, the more broad and solid your foundation is.
In my late teens, I was involved in a network marketing business. I learned about making sales calls and presenting information. I gained a lot of courage from making myself do that, but as a business person I failed miserably. But, what this business had was a superb leadership education system. So, starting at age eighteen, I had people-skills, financial management, economics, conflict resolution, and basic success principles pumped into me.
I wish I could give the same to every grad.
Though I felt humiliated by the business aspect, I can’t regret that time because I laid a gigantic base for my life. I know I’d never be pursuing a career as a writer now if I hadn’t been exposed to that information then. I wouldn’t have known I could.
Finally, remember that ‘it is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. Do what you can,” (to quote Sir Sidney Smith).
Just because we’re not sure what we want to make of our lives does not give us license to sit on our butts at home, as tempting as that is. What if our defining moment only arrives in our seventies?
Benjamin Franklin’s greatest work was as a statesman. He was an old man when that happened. But he’d been pretty dang busy—writing, building a franchise model printing business, flying his kite. He’d built up a solid base of experience and a network of influence. When the time came and his country needed him, he was ready.
If we do nothing, by seventy we’ll be… nothing.
So I encourage you to do the first thing, be it taking University One or a job at McDonalds—and be intentional about it. Wring every drop of knowledge you can from it. Pick up a book or subscribe to a podcast on something that fascinates you. Take adventures—explore, go on missions or humanitarian trips, go on road trips. You’re young now, and there’s not much to tie you down. Don’t wait for life to happen to you.
And always be looking, waiting for the hand to tap you on the shoulder so you can step up and shine.