After turning 18, you are considered a legal adult – as in you can vote and join a branch of the military……if you do not go the military route, you are expected to decide what you “want to be” for the rest of your life. You have to decide a career path via work or pick a major and continue with your education journey. How in the world and why do we expect people that are only 18 to make this decision?! At 18, you are not allowed to legally drink and in most states can’t purchase tobacco either. Very few people at 18 can say for certain what they want to do with the rest of their lives, so why do we continue to make these “adults” pick a path and expect them to stay on it? We allow these young people to vote on issues far surpassing their experiences – that will impact the majority. We allow these young people to sign a contract with the military – in which there is the possibility of death. We do NOT allow these young people to drink or smoke (legally). We push these young people to decide on a path that will ultimately determine the rest of their lives. I barely remember being 18, but I know I was very fortunate, but I still had no idea what I really wanted to be or what major to choose. I can’t imagine how someone without the focus on education, life lessons, and family support that I was blessed to have makes any kind of life decision at that age.
My generation and the ones before mine are by far terrible at this notion of you pick a job and do it until you retire. We chose a career path and we remain on it, no matter how much we do not like it, if it is unfulfilling, just go to work – do your job – cash the check – pay your bills and taxes – maybe retire and then die. We literally take this beaten path forever, and then expect our children and grandchildren to do the same. Perpetuating this terrible cycle of you can only have one career in your life and you will do this even if you don’t truly want to anymore. WHY?
I started thinking on this recently because my oldest niece turned 15 and started talking about colleges. (Excuse me while I cry – as I was a Freshman in College when she was born!!). She has started creating a list of potential schools she would like to attend, based on a potential major she will pursue and ultimately what career…..at 15! Granted she is an over achiever, like the rest of us in the family, but it just made me wonder – why are we still asking people to pick a path and stay on it? Why are we, the older generations, so afraid to break off the path and try a new route? Robert Frost even wrote a poem about taking the road less traveled that has surpassed time and is still studied, discussed, and reviewed in education – why are we fascinated by this concept but too damn scared to act?
Are we as adults too afraid of the unknown? Maybe that is why we learn and try so much during our formative years, because we don’t know the fear yet. Is it the fear of failure? I honestly have no idea….I can tell you that in my career I have changed jobs, in the same field and similar positions, and it is scary! I think we get comfortable and settle, even if our situation(s) leave us unhappy, and wanting more. All of this leaves me with the question: How do we, as adults, get more comfortable with starting a new path? How can we learn to be OK with turning around and taking a different road?
For me to have an answer to those questions, I look to younger generations. These young adults are not afraid to try new paths, to speak out and say they need and want more. We are currently in what media has termed “The Great Resignation.” People are resigning, quitting and changing jobs more now than ever before. As someone in a position that deals with recruiting, hiring and HR, it can be frustrating. As someone that has been in a professional role for over 10 years, I’m in awe and impressed by most of the individuals that have used this crazy time to find a new career and follow their desires. We change our clothing styles, vehicles, living situations, and more to adapt to our evolving styles or needs, but not our career paths. When will we finally embrace the idea of working to live, not living to work? I just hope it is within my lifetime, because let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to retire early enough to still have lots of fun?