Oct 16, 2020
The other night, my 8th grader told me she was already nervous about 9th grade even before the pandemic started.
What concerns you the most?
"I don't know what I want to do when I grow up."
Why do you have to know before 9th grade?
"Because it's not too long from there that you go to college and basically you have to know what you are going to do before you get to college. "
...and so we embarked on a little undoing of what some well-meaning teachers had impressed upon her as their definition of accomplishment and success.
The key points of my advice to her:
- Study and learn what interests you and inspires your curiosity, at least in tandem with the secure plans you have to make
- Careers and jobs that you can't even imagine will come up down the road, and fields can combine in ways that are not on our radar screen. If you nurture your thinking and fascination, you will be better equipped to find a niche, or carve out your own.
- You can be an artist. You can be a graphic artist. You can be a scientist who does art.
- You don't have to know the outcome before you begin.
This has been a pretty common theme in my discussions with her: the idea that she gets to create her own definition of success, of integrity, of value. She looks around and sees teachers who don't really like what they do, or don't seem happy to her. She wants to be a teacher but questions the value of it when so many seem miserable. I think it's her fear that highlights the ones she thinks are miserable in her mind. So, we looked for the teachers who she knows love what they do. Some of them happened upon teaching after studying other things. And yes, it does seem to her that a sometimes meandering path, one of building self-knowledge and fascination, one that does not always know the outcome, is also a path to success.
Sometimes well-meaning advice becomes so large in our heads that it becomes counter-productive and paralyzing. When that happens, it's time to wrap it up with boundaries and put it in its appropriate place.
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