By Marcia Love
It was just a couple weeks ago that it hit me, and I can’t believe how quickly the time has flown by. It’s been an entire decade since I graduated high school.
To some of you, that may not seem like a long time, but it blows my mind this much time has passed since that awkward (well, more awkward) phase of my life.
When I think back on my late teens and even early 20s, the part I remember the most was feeling completely terrified that I would fail at “real life” outside of high school.
Now I can see all that time worrying was a waste. And it’s encouraging to see a lot of teens and young adults nowadays get that. They aren’t worried, and, for the most part, I think that’s a good thing.
Ten years ago, I graduated high school. I graduated, but I didn’t leave. Because like so many of my classmates, I had no idea where to go. And so it became a popular practice in Ontario for Grade 12 students to go back for a “victory lap” (I’m not sure if it’s as common now or not, but back in my day about 15 per cent of graduates opted to go back and gain extra credits).
Had I not taken that extra year, I might have ended up spending thousands of dollars on a post-secondary program I wasn’t sure was right for me. Or working at a job that made me miserable day in and day out.
At 17 or 18, it’s OK to have no clue what you want to do with your life. It’s OK to keep searching.
Finally being out of school makes you feel so much older, wiser and grown up. In the grand scheme of things though, the first 20 years of your life are just a blip on the radar. No one should expect teens and young adults to have it all figured out, and yet some do expect it.
But you can’t find your passion if you aren’t exploring.
This time a decade ago, I was working a job I absolutely despised – so much so that it drove me back to school. And I’m glad I did, because that was all part of figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. It also gave me a pretty good idea of what I didn’t want to be doing with my life.
I’m not saying we should wait until our late 20s or into our 30s before we decide it’s time to get serious about education or a full-time career. But no one should feel pressured into the typical high-school-to-college/university-to-workforce-to-marriage-to-family lifestyle before they’re ready.
Maybe you’ve made a mistake in trying to find your way. It’s bound to happen, but it shouldn’t be discouraging.
The key is to keep moving forward.
I’m still trying to figure out how to get better at failing. Like most, failure is something I definitely don’t handle very well. Some people can let it roll off their backs, but it can eat away at me until I’ve analyzed and reanalyzed it to the point I feel I’m going mad. I find myself envious of the kind of people who can go through moments of setback and failure and bounce right back. They can move forward while I dwell on mine, wondering where I went wrong and wishing I could go back and choose another door to go through. I’m especially upset if my failure costs me money. But sometimes you have to suck it up and cut your losses.
Even after graduating college, many of us feel the pressure to immediately buckle down and panic about finding the perfect job. Because that’s what’s expected of us.
Instead of worrying about finding a job – any job – I wish I had spent that summer after college travelling. In the long run, it likely would have done me a lot better than working the night shift at a gas station for minimum wage, hating every minute of it. We may not be able to live our entire lives in wanderlust mode, but we should embrace the chances we have to do just that when they come along.
Having your life and future planned out at a young age is great, but those who don’t shouldn’t feel like freaks. Learning opportunities come in many different forms, and there’s more than one path to a certain outcome.