Yesterday, I took my 16-year-old son for a preliminary look at a couple of nearby college campuses. He wasn’t really very enthused about the trip. In fact he simply didn’t want to go – and was very unhappy that I was disturbing his Sunday plans to do his chores and his homework and then go “hang-out” with his friends. “I know”, I said “but this is what we are going to do – so let’s make the best of it”. It was a long and grueling struggle and honestly by the time we got to our first destination, I was feeling pretty frustrated and defeated by the emotional wrangling to get there. But at that moment, something shifted, I am not quite sure what, and reaching a compromise that involved driving through, rather than walking around campuses we began a process that felt better for both of us.
The point of the trip – was not for him to choose one of the schools we were seeing (necessarily) but rather to get the sense of what different kinds of campuses “feel” like and to begin to get a perspective on the differences between big and small, public and private, suburban and urban campuses, and to begin to have a sense of which environments felt best to him, cause right now he has no idea of what he wants to study or where he wants to be or even how to begin the process of making such a choice. Additionally, I was hoping that it might give him a bit of inspiration; something to start getting excited about, something to fuel his resolve to work hard this year so that he can have choices about where he will eventually end up attending school. Ultimately, I think it was a successful experience, though earlier in the day I wasn’t so sure.
What I didn’t elaborate on is that in fact we have choices all along life’s path. That midway through his college career he could change majors and schools, that years from now, he may decide to go back to school for a degree in a totally different area, or that he may find himself working in a field that has nothing to do with what he “thought” he wanted to do, and loving it. That can all come later. The reality is all we really ever have to work with is what we bring to the table in the present moment. Sure, a good education from a well-respected school doesn’t hurt when opening up opportunities for future choices, but life can always surprise you with a curveball or two – some good, some not so good.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t dismiss us from becoming active participants in the process. We all need to have goals, to have dreams and aspirations for the life we want to lead. The choices are ongoing and constant, we can give ourselves the opportunity to do what makes us feel like we are at our best or we can choose to settle. But the responsibility is ours alone. Your life is what you make it, and there will be plenty of times when you have no clue as to what direction you want to head in but the possibility always awaits for us to find it out there. The trick is being open to the whispers of inspiration that surround us every day and the fortitude to follow our dreams. To make mistakes and to try again, to be disappointed and to persevere, and to be the person we know we were meant to be – that’s the ticket.