Eight weeks from today, my youngest son turns 18. The very next day, he graduates from high school. The day after that, I will officially be an empty nester; I already have plans to pack up all his stuff in extra large Hefty bags and leave them outside the door, along with a McDonald’s coupon for a small Shamrock Shake as an extra special treat.
Of course, it will be May and Mickie D’s will no longer offer the Shamrock Shake, but it is the thought that counts, and he’ll understand that.
I’m kidding, of course. My plans with Youngest Son are still evolving, as his ideas of what to do for college and a long-term outlook have been rather murky. If he had to take a quiz over his future plans, I have a feeling that a lot of answers would be the famous “IDK” (I don’t know). My only hope is that none of those answers would be the irritating “IDC” (I don’t care). As a teacher, I see plenty of both those answers.
Honestly, I know very few people who knew exactly what they wanted to do out of high school. I mean, we thought we knew, but we really didn’t. When I had to take an interest survey at 15, I was obsessed with Elvis. I loved playing music on my keyboard and dreamed of being a singer someday. Y’know – just like Elvis.
There was one problem: I was an introvert, and the thought of standing on a stage, singing and being vulnerable, made me want to vomit. (I did it once as a senior, as all seniors who got a superior rating on their vocal solo had to. I sang the shortest solo out of anyone and got the heck off the stage before I passed out. Here is the proof.)
However, having that idea in the back of my head, I answered all the questions correctly so that my #1 field ended up being in “entertainment and the performing arts.” It soon dawned on me that my reluctance to perform in front of other people might be problematic for a career such as this.
Back to the drawing board.
I wrote for the student newspaper throughout my high school years. I don’t think I wrote well — for most of my pieces were dashed off in the last few moments before a deadline — but I wrote something to fill the space anyway. I received good feedback from my advisor and relished in the compliments. This, of course, made me start leaning toward my next chosen career. I was going to be a journalist!
There was a problem with this career, too – part of which involved my reluctance as an introvert for talking to people I didn’t know. Apparently, journalists sometimes have to do that every now and then.
However, I had inspiration. I read a lot of Bob Greene back then, the since-disgraced Chicago journalist who liked to wax nostalgic about his adolescence. I had stumbled across his book in my father’s library called Be True to Your School, where he published his journals from his high school days, and I was intrigued. I loved how by the time I was done with the book, I felt I knew the people he had written about. By the time I had discovered the book, Greene was writing daily for the Chicago Tribune, and once the Internet became a “thang,” I made a habit of looking up his columns and keeping up with them.
In 2002, his life came crashing down around him, but those details can be easily found in a Google search and don’t need to be hashed out here. The fact remains that I was intrigued at the prospect of being a journalist with my own column and possibly a book deal or two.
One month into my freshman year of college with a media professor who was dour, gruff, and wholly unpleasant, I started rethinking my journalism plan. It really wasn’t the professor per se who turned me off from journalism; it was the stark reality that the chances of my being a columnist were almost null and void, unless I wanted to write for the local rinky dink newspaper with an audience of 12. I would most likely be writing obituaries and police reports for who knows how many years.
During a college break, I remember riding in my car with my mom as I shared my confusion about my career options. She suggested that I look into teaching English. I loved language, I loved to read, I loved to write, and who wouldn’t want those summers off?
Ah, yes. Those lovely summers off – where we teachers do not think of school at all. I laugh to think about that now, for I have spent many a summer re-designing curriculum, taking classes for recertification, or whatever other demands my job made of me. I also didn’t realize at the time that teaching in general was a 24/7 job; I find it impossible to go home and NOT think about school or things I need to do or units I need to plan or students who are struggling. It is ALWAYS on my mind.
Anyway, that was the turning point. It only took me until midway through my freshman year in college to figure it out, but I did eventually figure it out.
So when my son tells me that he really doesn’t know what he wants to do, I certainly am not panicking on his account. He’ll figure it out.
I’ll only start to worry if he tells me he wants to be the next Elvis.
Because that role has been taken.
By me. In secret.
Have a great Saturday!