Yesterday we went to my step daughter, Nicole’s graduation day. She walked across the stage to get her diploma along with 470 other students. It was a mix of English study students, Spanish immersion students and French immersion students. As I watched them all walk across the stage, I wondered where they would end up versus where they think they are headed.
I remember my graduation day in May of 1994. Holy cow, that was 24 years ago. As Evan would say “Wow, Mom! You are old as dirt!” Back then I wanted to be a MD, PhD just like Sean Connery in Medicine Man. I wanted to live in the rain forest and come up with cures for diseases that plague the world.
Thankfully, the only thing more pressing for me than finding a cure for cancer was making money. Growing up poor will do that to you. It made me choose to take Chemical Engineering instead of just Chemistry. Both could get me into med school but if I chose not to go to med school then Chemical Engineering had a MUCH better chance of keeping me gainfully employed.
I graduated with a high GPA from high school which snagged me a scholarship to the University of Alabama. I will admit that I thought I was hot stuff at my graduation. I had the world by the reigns.
Little did I know that I didn’t have any idea how to study and university was going to kick my ass. Yep, it was only a few short months before I was sitting in the halls of U of A crying because I had no idea how to do the work in my calculus class much less my calculus based physics class. I went from the top of the world to the bottom of the barrel in a few short months.
None of the kids on that stage have any idea what is coming, even the ones who think they do. It is both the most exciting and the scariest part of their lives. They have so many decisions to make and it feels like every one of them has life or death consequences.
But you know what? They don’t.
Yes, I think it is important to do SOMETHING to move your life forward after graduation day. Staying stuck where you are at graduation is a bit sad (we all know THOSE people) but there is nothing saying that you have to know exactly what you want to be when you grow up.
In fact, I would say most of those graduates’ parents still don’t know. I know I don’t.
You see, even with all the crying, I graduated with a Chemical Engineering degree. I never continued on to medical school. Now I am a full-time (but half pay) blogger who uses exactly ZERO of my Chemical Engineering degree on a day to day basis.
Was it a waste? Maybe a waste of tears because it really wasn’t something I should have cried about. What I learned in resilience, working with others, time management and perseverance is something that has been a valuable asset for me every day for the rest of my life. I’m glad I did it even if I don’t use it.
So if you have a child graduating this year…take the time to remember how you felt on that day. Remember that even if you felt like a rock star or a hopeless failure, it really doesn’t have much to do with where you are today. And if you are a grad this year, know that whether you know exactly what you want to do today likely has little to do with whether you will be successful in the future.
Strive for your dreams but remember that dreams change and that is okay. 24 years later, I am not an MD PhD and I am not ziplining through the rain forest but I have a pretty great life.
Life is not concrete, it can be changed, daily if needed. Embrace the journey and, in the words of Dory, “Just keep swimming”.