My wife and I took our son to college about a month ago. It was a bit difficult, since he’s our first “out of the nest”. So far, he seems to be adjusting to his new life. We seem to be surviving the experience as well, although it’s been an adjustment for us (ok, mostly me) to fill the void with regard to retrieving items stored on high shelves, carrying heavy things, changing outdoor light bulbs, strenuous yard work and the like. And I’m not sure that our daughter (our last left at home) was fully prepared for quite THIS much attention.
I spent some time over the past few months talking with my son about his future. Like most graduating high school seniors/incoming college freshmen, he had some ideas about what he wanted to pursue, but didn’t really have things nailed down yet. (His plans as a youth to play professional baseball, basketball AND football while designing video games on the weekend didn’t seem to be panning out). All-in-all, it’s not that unusual. Most 18 year olds that think that they have their future mapped out with definitive clarity are simply wrong.
My advice to him? Everybody starts somewhere.
My work life (post neighborhood yard work and odd jobs, that is) started with unloading trucks, picking up trash, scrubbing concrete, and doing other assorted things for McDonald’s. It was close enough to home that I could walk there when I couldn’t get a ride. Having a car was just a wish at that point. Since I was in high school, it fit my schedule, neatly filling those empty evening and weekend hours that no high school student really values (insert sarcasm sign here). Still, it provided my first real paycheck. That paycheck ultimately led to being able to buy my first car (for $100 cash). I learned many valuable lessons, both life and work, not the least of which was how to be absolutely deadly with a towel snap. Seriously. To this day, my son will still turn and run if he sees me with a towel headed in his general direction. All joking aside, that job provided me a great starting point, many life lessons, and an opportunity for advancement. In the end, that is all that we can really ask. That entry-level position became one step amongst twenty from high school teen to company president and business owner.
The best lesson of all? Where you start doesn’t necessarily determine where you finish. We ourselves determine that, not anyone else. Every stop along the way is an opportunity. That particular opportunity may fit your wants, needs, and dreams at the time, or it may not. That doesn’t make it an invaluable step along the way. Each step builds upon the last, ultimately leading to wherever your choices take you in life.
My son is just starting his own race. I don’t think he has any idea yet that it’s a marathon, not a sprint.