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Going on thirty-one.  Or maybe you’re twelve, with teenage-hood in sight…

This post is potentially for my own children, but largely I write this for any/all pre-teens and young teens who might unusually come across my site.  This particular musing isn’t going to delve much at all into morality, faith and such.  No, this is about looking forward to your education and eventual entrance into the working world.  Parents, teachers, your elders, what do they know, eh?  If you’re not going to listen to them, then maybe listen to me.

First, let’s set a baseline:

1.     You are not the center of the world.  The world does not revolve around you; it is not your oyster. 

2.      It is okay to live in your own little world, but reality and your own little world may not necessarily connect at any point.  It’s important to know the difference and how to operate in the real world.  Here’s a little secret – everyone has their own little world… even those who say they don’t.

3.      Money is not everything, yet conversely it is important.  You need money to survive, but don’t let it consume you.  Greed is not the answer nor material possessions.

4.      You can change, but as you get older, it gets harder; furthermore, don’t assume you’ll have a chance in the future to fix things.

5.      Regret’s no good though it can often rear its ugly head.  Don’t spend your life wallowing in regret.  Move forward, and do things so that hopefully you will have no regrets.

6.      You are not invincible.  You are a fragile creature, one step away from death at all times.  You do not know when your last moment on this earth will be, period.  Take each day and relish it, making the most of it.

7.     You don’t know everything nor will you ever in this life.  Your parents and elders however do happen to know a bit more than you.  Listen to them; don’t discount them out of hand.

8.      You’re not always right.  You will never be perfect – and that’s okay.  Life is about learning, especially from our mistakes.

9.      Life is not nor will it ever be rosy perfect.  Come to terms with this, deal with it, move forward.

10.   Answers in life aren’t always cut and dry, right and wrong.  This doesn’t mean it’s all relative or all gray.

11.   Common sense may well serve you far better in life than book smarts.  Learn to think critically, to be situationally aware, and to think before you act or speak.

As a thirteen year old or there-about, you’re in middle school/junior high.  You’re about to enter high school.  Not only are hormone’s changing you physically, but you’re beginning to step up educationally and more importantly, lay the groundwork for your future.  From here on out, the choices you make educationally will have lasting effects.

I know of a guy who’s in his thirties.  He lives with his parents.  He does not work; his parent’s willingly let him stay at home and feed him.  He spends his days playing video games.  What a life eh?  Sure, he gets to spend his days playing games.  His life is his… so long as his parent’s continue to let him stay and feed him.  But, his parents are getting older and at some point they will pass away; certainly the mother will before the dad.  The older siblings have already said they’ll not take little brother in, and it’s likely that daddy will boot his baby boy to the curb when the mom dies.  Blame can be cast on the parents for raising their child to think being a lazy leech is okay, but the individual, the man really has no one to blame but himself.  He can work, he just refuses to do so – and why not… he’s got a good thing going.  Unless he’s got some killer scheme lined up or knows he’s going to win the Lottery, he’s going to have a hard life ahead of him at some point with little education and zero or little to show on a resume’. 

I know of someone else who’s staring at forty.  I’m in a good place but I have some regrets.  I’m seeking to change some things… things I should have done twenty to twenty-five years ago.  I’m going back to school to get my Master’s degree, to seek a new career path; into a field I always wanted to work in…

When I was in junior high I discovered I really liked maps.  I’d always liked maps, but while researching for a science fair, I realized I really liked maps and wanted to work with maps.  So my parents helped me look into it and we found a college that offered a cartography program.  I was struck with reality.  Cartography was going to require a lot of math… something I didn’t like and didn’t do well in.  My dreams deflated, I looked at other possible educational/career tracks.  I have a modicum of artistic ability and loved art classes.  I also have a tendency towards laziness and procrastination.  By the tenth grade I figured that maybe art education should be the educational plan and for a number of years I worked towards that goal.

I hated high school.  Didn’t like the school and wanted as little to do with it as possible.  Granted, our school didn’t offer a lot of things many schools offer these days, but the little that it did offer, I wanted little of.  I also took easier classes when I had the opportunity and choice.  I saw little value in many of the harder courses.  How would Physics serve me?  What did I need to know about Advanced Math?  I made little effort in school and my grades showed it… but I tested well. 

College was my first taste of the “real world”.  I also happened to be very introverted at the time.  So I went to school and came home.  That was pretty much my life that first semester.  I hated my first art class.  Design 101.  I wound up flunking it.  It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the work.  I’d made A’s in art in high school.  But things were different, the bar was higher.  It didn’t help that I was immediately throwing myself into the very liberal leaning milieu that is the art world.  Coming from a very conservative upbringing, I balked.  I also wasn’t impressed by a professor who wouldn’t live up to the ground rules he’d laid down for particular projects.

Life inserted itself into my collegiate education and I found it easier to work instead of go to school.  By allowing myself to flow along, I instead did damage to my education and more importantly, my resume’.  This isn’t to say I’m not a good worker.  I’ve got a great work ethic.  I can and do work hard and my resume’ has shown it, having been rehired – twice with my employers calling me – for three different companies.  But I moved a lot, and I tried going back to school, and I switched majors… Between going to college and moving, the jobs I got were spread out and all low/entry level positions.  Furthermore, none of them were positions/jobs that’d go anywhere nor were they all in a similar field.  I worked for fast food, retail glass, an auto dealership (in the service department), did bathroom remodeling and a number of other jobs/fields.  Entering my late twenties I finally realized I’d pretty much wasted my twenties career-wise and educationally and determined to buckle down and finish a bachelor’s degree.  Aged 31 I finally graduated with a degree in social studies education.

I never used the degree for what it was intended.  Not only did I realize as I was completing my degree that I really had no desire to teach in a high school, but nearing graduation I finally fell in love.  After graduating I moved once more and because of timing and the need to find a job, I didn’t seek employment in the local school districts.  I landed a job, got married and shortly thereafter we had our first child.  My wife and I decided that we wanted one of us to stay home and we came to the conclusion that it’d be me.  My wife loved her job and it had great benefits, so it made more sense.  And then we had more children and I found myself looking at forty and no longer enjoying being home.

Over the last seven years or so I’d thrown around the idea of going back to college and getting my master’s in cartography like I’d always wanted to do, but it didn’t make financial sense and I couldn’t find a university nearby that offered such a program.  About a year ago I came to the conclusion that something had to change however and through that, over the months, I learned about GIS (Geographic Information Systems), and then I learned that I could go to school online… and best yet, the field was/would be in demand.

So, what about you?  You might hear people say not to go to school to do what you love.  I think it depends on what that love is and what your goals and plans are.

You see, I had no real goals or plans in high school.  I knew I needed to get a job and/or go to college because I wouldn’t have any roof over my head otherwise – whether on my own or with family.

I set cartography – map making – aside because I knew math was hard for me, didn’t like it and didn’t want to make the effort.  Having set it aside, I saw no value in pushing myself in high school.  So, I thought art was the choice.  I loved art, was good at it; why not?  Except the signs were already there in high school.  I didn’t like doing art for other people.  I liked doing my art how I wanted at my pace.  My art was merely a pastime for me.  Taking art in college led me to disliking art, at least me doing art.  There was no enjoyment in it.  An enjoyable pastime that I’d while the hours away in became work.

And the reality of the career world had also crept in.  I realized that in the educational career totem pole, art is near the bottom of the stack, by music.  I suspected my career opportunities would be slim and furthermore, while I’ve never been driven by a desire for money, I knew I needed to make some money.

So I slid sideways and majored in something else I loved.  History, politics, geography; social studies.  Only, they’re near the bottom of the ladder too – unless you’re a phys ed major with a minor in social studies it seems.

So… what’s my life story got to do with you?  Choices.

1.       The choices you begin to make now and during high school set the groundwork for your educational and career future.

2.       You can do what you love, but you must be prepared for the reality that it might not be fun nor perfect getting there or even once you’re there.

3.       You have to push yourself.  It’s one thing to be stubborn in general, it’s another to be so stubborn that you’re cutting off your nose to spite yourself.  The only person you’re harming is yourself.

4.       Make plans and set goals.

5.       Stretch yourself.  This goes along with pushing yourself.  You want to be a musician but only like the guitar?  Learn another instrument, or two, or three…

6.       You can/might have second chances but act as if you won’t.

I’m coming full circle.  I’m finally going for something I’d always wanted to do, and you know what?  It’s hard.  It’s even harder now for me because I’m married, with four small children.  My brain feels like mush with a constant ache for the information overload.

There is a part of me that has regrets, that wishes and dreams.  Oh, to be 13 again, but things would probably be far different.  I might not have met my wife nor have the wonderful children I have.

So I push, because I have to, because I want to do it.  I realize there’s going to be a lot about this field and any job I get that I won’t like.  I realize there’s going to be a lot about these classes and coursework I’m not going to like, but I hunker down and bear in because there’s a reward at the end.  What’s the reward?  The realization that I did it and the opportunity – hopefully – to get a job, doing something I always wanted to do since I was 13.