Advice? For The Graduates of 2010...
I think that perhaps the most despised word in the English language (to a graduating high school senior at least) is the word "advice."
After all, seniors have spent the last thirteen years of their lives (including kindergarten) receiving instruction, and education, and yes, advice. In their eyes, what more could possibly be told to them now, by ANYONE five MINUTES older than they are, about life?
Seniors, who have had virtually every aspect of their lives directed by adults up to this point, want to get on with their own lives, plans, and futures. They certainly want to have little to do with well-meaning but otherwise totally BORING grown-up advice.
Well, too bad. Here it comes anyway.
Wisdom, as anyone who has ever graduated from high school could tell you, is not the accumulation of facts, but rather the successful blending of those facts with life's experiences. There's an old saying attributed to American writer Mark Twain about never letting school get in the way of one's education. See, it's like this: If the choice came right down between "book-learnin'" and common sense, give me the common sense, anytime. Still, you really need both aspects in order to get by in this wild world of ours.
I'll make my own advice here real simple for you. There really are only two kinds of jobs out there. There's the job you will like, and the job you will not like. Which kind would you rather have? You've been in school now for thirteen years. Did that seem like a long time? If that question seems to have a rather obvious answer, then consider this point: You will be spending about three times that amount of time at your job. Unless you go into the teaching field, forget about those weeks off in the summer, and at Christmas and Easter time too. You'll now most likely be on the job for fifty out of fifty-two weeks of the year.
Yes, you'd better like that job.
Over the years, I've worked as a photographer, a professional musician, a private music teacher, a sales manager of a retail music store, and a musical instrument repair person. I've also done some public speaking and, of course, write these columns for you. The most important job I believe I've had has been in the field of school teaching. I was a teacher for more than thirty years, and those were some of the best days of my life. Truthfully though, each of my jobs has been an enjoyable experience. Enjoyable jobs are usually the ones that require some specialized training. If you receive specialized training, you will likely be paid more as well.
Remember, this is 30 years of time that we're talking about. As previously noted, you'd better REALLY like what you will be doing...or you could end up being REALLY unhappy.
It is critical, as well, that you keep your good name and a clean record. One silly mistake on a Saturday night, and your chances for a good employment future can go down the drain forever. Watch what you do on the internet, as well. The internet is indeed forever, and some of your unwise chat-room postings can follow you throughout your life like the reeking smell of a road-killed skunk.
Sometimes too, even when you think that you might have your future planned, you may need to shift gears when a better idea comes along. For example, I originally trained as a regular education teacher, but teaching those large classes for many years might have been a real challenge for me, due to my having a serious speech impediment. A VERY wise principal friend of my father's suggested that I go into special education teaching instead, as there would be smaller classes to teach, and young people could perhaps also identify with someone who had exceptional issues similar to their own.
When I thought about it, it made great sense, so that's exactly what I ended up doing. In fact, my "job" actually became more of a mission for me. Helping young people having special needs also helped me gain a better perspective on some of my own former childhood experiences.
In short, while I certainly hope you will make plans for what you think you want to do in life, always remain open to new opportunities as they come along.
Don't forget, as well, the lessons taught to you when you were young about making sound decisions and knowing the difference between right and wrong. The fact that there are many shades of gray in this world does not eliminate the fact that clear choices must sometimes be made.
I'll simply close with one more thought, again attributed to Mark Twain: “It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”