When I converse with young college alums, we often discuss the life between their parents’ home and their own. Whether the transition is from their parents’ home or from college to the workplace, our talks about handling the angst in transitioning are engaging.
Most of them were told to go to college, major in something they like, and then get the job they would love. Some of them said they fell for it hook, line, and sinker without being prepared for the seeds of discontent. Others said life is what you make it so adjust through the unexpected and learn from it:
- One young grad told me that her physician father refused to pay for her education unless she majored in premed. She wanted to choose a business major but he said if she majored in premed, she would graduate debt-free with a new car. Otherwise, she could pay her own way. She graduated on his terms while taking elective business courses but, after he signed over the car, she pursued a career in business.
- A friend introduced me to a college grad that had graduated eight years before and hadn’t worked full-time or in her degreed field. Her parents financially supported her while she worked for their business part-time. The grad told me her ideal job would be in a museum but she needed experience. I asked her why she hadn’t volunteered at the numerous museums in D.C. (a short drive away), which may have netted her a job opportunity by now. She said she never thought about it, but she would ask a friend who worked in D.C. to pick up some museum applications. I then asked her why was she asking someone else to do the legwork versus doing it herself, researching it online, or making some calls. Her response: “Oh, I probably will.”
- A very successful business woman discussed teaching her child about perspective when she was applying for college. Her daughter wanted to attend an expensive private college without considering the cost. She told her daughter what she was willing to spend on her college education, which allowed her to choose from several very good colleges. However, if she was set on the private college, she could receive the same amount but the difference would be made up through student loans in her name. Her daughter balked at graduating with debt so she chose a college within their budget and happily attended.
When you love someone and want the best for them—whether it’s a familial relationship or a friendship—it is sometimes hard to draw the line between caring for them and carrying them.
Parenting is a challenge in itself, but savvy parents know that you can’t parent the child the same way at every age. The premed grad taught her father the difference between trying to influence her decisions versus controlling her. The unmotivated grad’s parents hadn’t drawn the line between teaching her to fish versus providing the fish. The businesswoman’s daughter learned that sometimes life is about the bigger picture and that getting what you want requires sacrifices.
Claiming the person you want to be is a lot harder than just wishing for it to happen. You can’t have all the advantages without the responsibilities or sacrifices. Frank A. Clark said, “If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere.”
In life, there are many bridges in the form of people, jobs, and unforeseen circumstances that will carry you to some good, bad, and insightful places. Claiming who you want to be is the longest bridge to cross because defining yourself, while trying to live up to others’ expectations, requires self examination, hard choices, and perseverance.
In the end, you have to live your own life, because no one else can do it for you. “Do not look where you fell but where you slipped” is an insightful African proverb to use throughout your life experiences. Whether it is acceptance, rejection, or something in between, life’s transitions will come with some angst. Learning to face and resolve it is simply part of the journey.