It’ll all work out
Shutterstock photo Copyright Dimj
As my eldest son prepares to begin Cegep, an academic journey that was a slog for him but passed by alarmingly fast for me, the question, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ arises with increasing frequency. And I wish I was in a better position to offer a quick, one-size-fits-all solution but truth be told, I still haven’t answered that question myself.
Since he was old enough to talk, I made it a point of recording every career aspiration in his baby book and they have included a doctor, a baker, cartoonist, and even, at one point, a mycologist.
When he asked me about some of the different career paths I’ve been on, even I was surprised when at last count, the number exceeded a dozen (everything from plastic injection moulding machine operator to toy designer) and though I may not be making that pinnacle of success known as the six-figure salary, I feel infinitely richer for having taken a meandering path with many branches rather than a progressive but unvaried ascent.
One of my favourite quotes, attributed to Henry Ford, is, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.” And so, if I have one piece of advice for my son, it’s to keep learning. This doesn’t mean staying in school indefinitely which is more liable to drive the desire to learn right out of him. Rather, it’s to take risks and make mistakes, learn from them, and try something else.
In the years that I’ve worked those dozen-plus careers, I’ve learned that a double computer screen and an anthropomorphically correct chair don’t make an iota of difference if you don’t like what you’re doing and that mental stimulation and a sense of accomplishment can offer more remunerative value than the paycheque.
Window seats are nice, but not necessary. What is necessary is only the ability to look up once in a while and catch a glimpse of the outside world if only to reassure yourself that it’s still out there, waiting for you.
I’ve learned that it’s okay not to know what your passion in life is by fifth grade and if you spend the rest of your life determining that passion, or better yet, finding out you have more than one, then good on you.
I’ve been fortunate that some jobs allowed me to travel to some very unusual places (Mid-western American nuclear plants are not the typical tourist destinations) but learned from each trip, if nothing more, that coming home is always the best part.
And I’ve learned that being lucky enough to be surrounded by good people can make a bad job bearable and a good job an absolute pleasure.
We get what, in the end we all will probably agree, is a very short time in the here and now.
And if you’re not happy to get out of bed every morning to go to your job then, as I told my son, there really ain’t much point in doing it.
Try new things Sweetie, don’t take the same paths that I did but make your own original mistakes.
Trust me - routine is a very slow way to die.