It is an occupational hazard, I suppose, that I think too much about that transitional time between high school and college or work. I think the way it is for young people is all wrong–at least for the bulk of the ones I know, they are confused lost.

Hardly any young person that I know knows what they are going to do when they get out of high school. Either they go work a Mcjob or they go to college and try to figure out what to study. There are a lucky few, who know early on. But most young folk haven’t a flippin’ clue about their direction…

So they go work at Starbucks or a grocery store or a record store or something they think they might want to do, and/or they go to college or community college. And they try to figure what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Agh, what a huge burden.

Some in college declare a major based on money, some on what they like and are good at, regardless of the money. The ones who make the decision for the money often end up at some point wondering how they got where they are–financially stable and working a job they enjoy less and less with time. “Why did I ever think being a pharmacist was a good idea?” as they remotely unlock their Very Expensive Automobile and drive to their Swanky Home.

Those who choose what they are good at and enjoy then try to figure out whether they can make any money in their area, and how. If one has a major in drama, poli sci, history, english lit, philosophy, art history, psychology, sociology, linguistics or foreign language have it rough.

There are some options:

  • persevere in poverty until you land some semblance of a job in your area, probably live at home
  • work wherever you can get the cash and wonder what to do with your life
  • go to graduate school and defer the anxiety
  • or go to Peace Corps for 2 years and hope to God everything works out ok there
  • OR if you have a mom or dad with connections, you may be able to get a decent or otherwise job doing something that may or may not be in your area.
  • If you are a girl, marry someone that supports you and you start making babies
  • Get your JD and be a lawyer

Then, for the unlucky of us with student loans, the time comes to pay them back. Congratulations, you have mortgaged many of the options for your future in pursuing an education to make you a contributing member of society. Sorry I sound so black about this…it’s just really a tough spot and one that no one talks about and happens ALL THE TIME.

Just try to pay back a 30,000 dollar loan on a Starbucks salary plus have a car, make rent buy clothes and keep a “standard of life” in the US. All your friends have Tivo’s, cell phones, SUV’s, a multitude of electronic gadgets and nice clothes or somehow travel to exotic locations? You will feel like you should have some of these things too. All your friends poor like you? You might be better off, except watch out for the sucking sound your life will make if you don’t find a way out of wearing a green apron for the rest of your life.

I have friends who haven’t been able to hold a job, have high paying jobs that suck and are stressful, have low paying jobs that they love but can’t buy a house on the salary, friends who dropped out of college to make babies and found out they were barren and friends who scrapped college and made, no kidding, millions.

And since I have given this so much thought, I do want to chip in my 2 cents about how to deal with this…if you are good at school and you like it or have something you want to study, GO. Do NOT let student loans stop you. When it was all said and done, my student loans were so high I just couldn’t fathom owing so much money. But, in the end, they were part of the reason I got the job I have and love.

Need to make money now and want to defer “THE DECISION” (you know the one where you decide what to do with the rest of your life), try a something temporary. An electrician, a nurse, a trade or craft-wood working, cooking. These areas allow you to move on to something else when and if you do want to go to college later.

Know you aren’t going to college? There are lots of high paying trades out there–from radiologist to longshoreman, mechanic. Things you can raise a family on, buy a house with, keep your options open. It is never too late to go back to school, if that is a goal that lingers in the back of your head.

I have worked every job under the sun to pay the rent: hostess, phone book delivery dispatch, library page, deli worker, bookstore clerk, tutor, “barista”, computer lab assistant, cleaner, bookkeeper, secretary, receptionist, nanny, “coffee bean expert”, beauty salon, gift shop clerk, room service order taker, retail (Pier One & Starbucks)…that’s what I call a scrapper–I’ve had no shame almost, so long as it got me a step closer to where I wanted to go.

“Wouldn’t it be nice” if there was some service option for graduated high school kids to move to a new community and do service there? A sort of local peace corps for high school graduates? Or make this time after high school a time when kids can serve somehow as a way to give them some experience in finding out or practicing what they are good?

3 Comments Add yours

  1. J. Star says:

    Ah, yeah, I pretty much agree with all that. It ain’t perfect, it’s just what we got…

  2. suleyman says:

    I can say amen to all this. I didn’t know what I was going to do when I entered college, beyond some nebulous future in the humanities. For a while I considered pursuing Islamic studies, but found the faculty to be so…let’s say closed minded. After declaring my major as history I knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to make much money off of it or go into a profession right out of college – but that wasn’t the point. I loved history and wanted to follow that path. I’m not out to be real well-off, just to do what I enjoy.Oh, and I really want to teach esl in Japan. I’ll do that. -Suley

  3. Fitèna says:

    Right-O! I saterd working during holidays as a typist formy Dad’s “Doctorat d’Etat” with an “imprimeure” while I was still at school. two yrs before ending high school and haven’t stopped since. Worked in a freight company, then as a primary school instructor, then as a librarian attendant, now as an administrator. Am 24. I enjoy working but I must say am feeling really… saturated now. I guess i need a break real hard. I’ve always wished I’d go to Uni, maybe its time I got ack to school again….Fitèna

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