Rethinking growing up is a story about how we force kids into making decisions too early about their life choices while not allowing the the freedom to explore their passions.
This post is made possible with support from AARP’s Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own.
The Struggle of Putting Children into One Box
I remember going into high school, we were told that we had to pick a career path. It was so easy for me. I knew I wanted to be pre-med. I had said I wanted to be a doctor from around the age of 4 my mom always tells everyone. So I signed up, and was excited to work towards my goal of being a neonatologist. Then, I decided around my sophomore year, that I wanted to take a photography class. I have always loved pictures and the stories that can be told around them. I wanted to learn how to take better pictures and develop them myself. My idea of learning more about a passion I had was quickly shot down. It wasn’t within my career path, so I couldn’t take the course.
I was devastated. My life had been defined by one thing and one thing only and I was only 14 years old.
When I went to college and got my pre-med schedule for my first semester, I quickly knew that this wasn’t going to be the career path for me. Essentially, I had just spent that last four years of my life, for nothing. I switched my major two more times before ending up with a degree in Criminology with an English minor. I used my degree for 3 years.
Fast forward — today I use my minor (which I obtained because I took so many electives because I loved writing) and that photography class sure would have come in handy since I’ve had to teach myself everything I know thus far. That one class in high school could have completely changed my life. Definitely, a lot sooner than waiting until I was 26 to pursue something that I thought could have been a passion when I was 14 years old.
Rethinking Growing Up
While Andrew doesn’t have exactly the same story, he did also go through two years of college before even deciding what he wanted to do. Our experiences have shaped how we look at our own children and what we want for them in terms of growing up.
We want to ensure that we allow them to explore all their options from early on in life.
- This means that every year they may do something new – whether that’s sports, or arts, or exploring. Just because they’ve done soccer before, doesn’t mean that’s the only sport they can do from now on in life
Making sure they have real life skills that will ensure they succeed no matter what
- As parents, we’ve both said that there were multiple things we wish we knew before leaving home. Life skills that simply weren’t taught to us. Whether it’s cooking, doing taxes, balancing a checkbook, changing oil in a car, or learning to sew, we want to set our girls up with success for life. One of the most important things being how to talk to people – networking, placing orders, etc.
We won’t force them into college.
- Andrew and I both think that college is a great thing, but it’s not the only thing. We both joke that the only great thing that came out of college was us meeting each other. Otherwise, we could have done what we do at a much lower price. Whether they choose trade or tech school, no school at all, college, Ivy league – we want them to know that there are multiple ways to be successful.
Experiences are more valuable than things
- It took Andrew and I a long time to realize this. However, being able to go explore a new city or do an activity together, like canoeing for the first time. Zip lining across the forest or traveling to bucket list countries. Those things will build you up more than buying new things that you don’t really need. Focus on those things is what we want our girls to do.
No matter your age, you can always make a change
- One of the most important take aways we want to ensure in our kids’ lives is that whether they are 5, 25, 55, or 75, if they want to do something new, they can. Whether it’s a career path, a new hobby, or an adventure, their current age doesn’t define them anymore than it did before.
At this stage of life, I realize I can change what I want to do in life, what my passions are, even now. I want my kids to know that they aren’t defined into one career at any one age. We are free to explore and change our path no matter our age. What really matters is happiness. When you find what truly makes you happy, everything else in life will start to fall into place. Rethinking growing up isn’t easy, but it’s going to be invaluable to this generation that we are raising.