“Better to consider opportunities now than in ten years when life may limit your choices.”-Ms. Darbus (High School Musical 3: Senior Year)
Here’s the thing kids, if you aren’t married and don’t have any children, THIS IS THE TIME to take risks career-wise and try on different shoes until one fits. I know you’re concerned about stabilizing yourself financially and sustaining what resources you have now, and that makes sense, but you have the rest of your life to bend over backwards doing something you don’t want to do to keep the bills paid. It’s a whole heck of a lot HARDER to quit a job just because you don’t like it once you have mouths to feed.
Life is far from a "High School Musical"
The inflexibility of workforce.
In America, we place a lot of value on our work identities. When you meet new people, the question asked after “where are you from?” is “what do you do?” The ironic thing is that even though work identity is so important here, our society does almost nothing to help you form the identity. In high school, you’re told you can do anything and that the world is your oyster, but there aren’t many opportunities (besides sports, maybe) to explore different talents and interests. Despite the lack of explorative opportunities, you’re expected to know what you want to do for the rest of your life at the ripe old age of 18 when you enter college, as if you won’t be a different person by age 21 when you graduate. The limiting explorative pattern seen in high school is replicated in college as you’re required to choose ONE major (and maybe a minor) and follow ONE program of study in order to get your degree. You can’t take whatever you want in college. Even a “university studies” major requires certain classes. Then, after 17 years of schooling (grade school and college), it’s time to go into the work force. You’re finally done with education. So you think.
Even though you’ve got a degree, for whatever reason you can’t find a job. Your six-month grace period is over and Sallie Mae is after you for loan repayments. There are no more financial-aid refund checks, and the bills gotta get paid. So you take a job wherever you can find it, even if it has NOTHING to do with your major or doesn’t require a college degree. Some end up working in very “humbling” positions, like in a mall or waiting tables. If you do get a job related to your major, it’s far from the most ideal position or it isn’t what you thought it would be. How else would you know what it was going to be like? It’s not like they prepare you for that at all in school, but that’s another issue. In addition to all of this, you STILL don’t have enough money to pay all your bills and you’re STILL living check-to-check. So after all that hard work, and all the juiced up, fanciful stuff you were told about the power of your degree, you’re unhappy and want out. You then consider going BACK to school, hoping that the 2nd time will be a charm and you’ll end up with the right degree and a better job. Some people come to this decision while still in their 20’s, others later in life. Those who decide this later have an even more difficult time because now they have children and mortgages and have to live on a student’s income (or lack thereof).
And lord forbid you mature or change at all and desire something different one day, because you can’t just up and switch careers when you feel like it. You have to figure out how to transition and how you’re going to sustain WHILE you transition. Not to mention holding your breath and hoping it works out.For a society that focuses so much on work identity, it’s pretty darn inflexible when it comes to that. The workforce (and your bills) doesn’t have patience for any personal changes or growth.
So what advice do I have for incoming college freshman? Well, the most I can tell you at this point in my life is try your hand, if you can, with different interests that you might have. Multi-task as much as possible. If you have no idea what you’re good at or what your interests are, ask yourself questions like “what kinds of things get my attention?” “If I had no limits or nothing to stop me, what would I do?” “If I had my way, what would I have or do?” Start there. Hopefully, that will help. The more I learn about surviving this process, the more I will share, and maybe we ALL will survive a little better.
This is going to sound stupid, but I learned something and had a major epiphany from Disney’s “High School Musical.” In the sequel, one of the morals to the story is that there’s nothing wrong with planning your future, but always make sure to enjoy your youth and present to the fullest. After watching it in January 2008, a light bulb went off. While I was in undergrad, I was sooo focused on my future and career plans, that I forgot to focus any on my present. I spent way too much time with my head in the books, instead of out with my friends. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun in undergrad, but not as much as I should have. Instead of living like I was in my twenties, I was living like I was in my forties. I was too financially frugal, too serious and too uptight. I had to be convinced to spend money on a cell phone and see Justin Timberlake (who I’ve been drooling over since I was 17) in concert. I would pass up weekend vacations or a night on the town to study. It was just ridiculous. What was I thinking? I’m not saying having focus or studying was stupid; I just should have had more balance in my life. I should have listened to my friends when they said I wasn’t having enough fun.
Due to my new epiphany, I decided I was going to take my life back. I realized that I was still young, still 20-something, and the best hadn’t passed me yet. I was going to let loose (within reason) and take life by the balls. Summer of 2008 was on its way, and it was going to be mine. I paid all my bills ahead a few months, stashed some money away for the summer, and by April of 2008, I said “deuces!” to my sucky job as a call center agent. I let go of my financial penny pinching (again, within reason) and I splurged big on vacations and a brand new wardrobe (NO BLACK! Which was a total 1st for me). I didn’t have a care in the world.
“High School Musical” also managed to reawaken my “inner sunshine princess.” In high school, I was that girl that everyone found annoying because she was smiling and happy all the time. Some people even called me “smiley.” When people asked me how I was doing, I would always say “peachy.” You would think there wasn’t anything sucky about life. For me, there wasn’t a single problem that couldn’t be handled with a smile. I was beyond optimistic. If I did have a problem, I would just say to myself “I’ll survive. It will all be fine soon.” I was giggly, silly, and very innocent-minded. I was as cheesy as Velveeta, corny as Green Giant (based on that joke, you can tell I still am). Somewhere between high school and finishing undergrad, the “sunshine princess “died or faded out. I got serious, jaded…cynical. Maybe my life experiences became too much and I just cracked. I don’t know. But somehow, this cutesy Disney tale about singing and dancing teenagers glued the pieces back together. I think of it as rejuvenation; a blessing. I’m not totally back to my old self, but I’m trying to let the negative part go. I’ve been allowing myself to re-enjoy simple, cheesy, innocent things like the Disney Channel. I’ve been spending more time with my friends. I never say no to a concert these days, and I’ve been doing things I don’t normally do (WITHIN REASON), like experimenting with my wardrobe (I must say I pulled off the “punk” look well, and I wore heels everyday to class for a week-which I NEVER do) and dancing on bars (to “Single Ladies”- it was great!). I saw a couple of movies and went to a concert by myself out of spontaneity. And the 3rd installment of the series, “HSM3: Senior Year,” encouraged me to pursue some alternate career goals I avoided due to fears that I wouldn’t succeed.
While I was in undergrad, one of my friends said “Jasmine, you’re way ahead of yourself, and when it’s time to be grown, you’re going to try to re-do 18.”
Why is she always right? LOL. That’s exactly what’s happening. Sort of. My graduate program requires me to be professional, focused, serious and studious. I mean after all, I’m being trained to a therapist and mess with people’s heads, right? I’ll be graduating within a year and I’ll have a REAL JOB and be a REAL ADULT. All the new responsibilities and expectations aren’t totally congruent with my new found mindset as I’m trying to be laid-back and take more risks. It’s been crazy and awkward, but I’m trying to work it out. I’m not ready to let go of the spark.