While perhaps as a high school teacher I have more insight into the mind of America’s adolescent, it is my life experiences that have taught me about dealing with the unknown. Leaving high school is more than graduation parties and a compilation of silly and painful memories of growing up-it is a walk upon the tightrope of life without the safety net provided by schools. In a matter of moments, the net is removed. And for some, the fear of falling means failure, unemployment, loneliness, malnutrition, addiction, or even death.
So many teens seek advice from those who have gone before them. And advice comes in many forms: economic, academic, employment. Counselors, teachers, friends, family members, and parents spend countless hours coaching students on the best careers with the best financial return, and many achieve success under the influence of this advice.
However, my experience tells me that any achievement is just that–an achievement or a goal that can be met, checked, and forgotten. Yet the next day brings forth more unknowns that come in the form of real life events: marriages and divorces, sickness and death, employment and unemployment, financial gains and financial losses. These vicissitudes of life are guaranteed, so my advice centers on the heart. And Howard Thurman says it best when he says, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs.”
You, graduates of 2014, are what the world needs when you realize your potential. Life is truly a journey and the measure of success by your peers may be monetary or altruistic, but it is your own measurement that should matter most. Do what moves you and it won’t be work. Do what makes your heart sing, and it won’t be work. Do what brings joy to you, and it won’t be work.
One of the greatest fallacies of this cookie-cutter public education is that we are all created equally, and we are not. We should all be treated and treat others with equal respect. America needs thinkers and laborers and artists and caregivers. Go where you feel alive, and you will breathe life into others.
If welding moves you, weld. If building moves you, build. If nurturing moves you, nurse. America just needs you to be the best you, nothing more and nothing less. Your life is yours: no one else can tell you what makes your heart sing. My advice: pick a career with your heart.