The Pressure to Pick Your Path

The Pressure to Pick Your Path

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A cartoon illustrates the author as a child, as described in his column.

At the age of 4, before I could even see over my kitchen counter, I would often dream. I’d wander through the house, puzzled by the little things, thinking about how next year I’d be taller, and wiser, and broader. I dreamed that in my perfect world, my mother and father would never grow older. I dreamed then of the next day, never realizing that before I knew it, I would be dreaming of the next year, and so on. Soon I would be able to see over that kitchen counter into a kaleidoscope of hope, fear, and wonder. It’s funny that all three of those things could be coherent, and hit you so quickly, because when you’re young, you never really know what you had to do to be realistic and successful. Before I knew it, I suddenly woke up at age 18.

There has been a sense of urgency in recent months to get right into school, and to get educated, quick. They say you’re young, and have plenty of time, and at the same time, you feel like the world is taking off without you. And boy is it not an easy mind ride. I always knew that I would need to get a good education, but it was almost expected that I go off to a great four-year school right away, and earn a top-notch degree. High school might claim to prepare you, but we all feel that weight shift
when we step into our first college classroom. Because of the way my life progressed, I always thought it would be easier to decide what I wanted to do and where I needed to go to fulfill my path.

Starting here, when I was around 5 years old, I wanted to be a bus driver. It was really because of an awesome man named Mr. Ken that I had that first dream. He was a quirky man with a few great jokes and a wonderful smile, the kind that was from ear to ear, almost meant to show true kindness. at seemed to be the only real importance at age 5, to be just like Mr. Ken when I got older. Then, there was the day that my dream changed. March 28, 2007. I took the stage in what was the finale of the local talent show, Spartan Idol. I was only 8 years old then, and still, had no real idea what the future was going to be, or how in the world to get there. I sang my wonderful solo rendition of High School Musical’s “Breaking Free” and enjoyed doing so. at night, I was crowned champ, and boy did that feel special. I was definitely going to be a professional singer.

Then again my dream changed. It was the summer of 2008, and my parents were about to take me to my first ever Detroit Tigers’ game. I had no real knowledge of the Tigers or the sport of baseball in general. When I watched for the first time a big league home run sail over the fence at Comerica Park, and a Tigers’ victory, I knew it right then: I was going to be a professional Major League Baseball player.

Then believe it or not, that changed. I was avid in community productions in my hometown, taking part in plays and even landing a few leads. The stage was so natural to me, so much so that people would beg me to share my secret: “How are you so comfortable up there?” and I never really had the answer. I loved acting, and this went back to a dream I had when I was younger, to move to Hollywood and become a highly paid actor or movie producer.

When I was in high school, I realized that I didn’t have quite the passion for acting or producing that I once did. I still placed some time for making dumb parodies and funny short lms with my friends in my free time, but knew this wouldn’t be a part of my plan to ful lling my new dream. I also wasn’t going to become a Major League Baseball player. As a freshman, I was five foot three, and 190 pounds. I had little to no speed (still don’t) and was not nearly as strong as my peers on the field. I loved the game, however, and planned to contribute my mind in someway to baseball throughout my life. Another thing that happened in high school, the fear kicked in. Lord, I’m a junior already, I have the ACT test coming, and I haven’t really thought about what school I want to go to after high school.

Changes happen, and yes, it can be very scary. And to quote my favorite movie, “Forrest Gump,” “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” is much is very true, because I’m on a path to God knows where, and all I’m trying to do is get there safely. e question, however, is where in the world do I start? The world is wider, you know, than what is over top the kitchen counter, and seeing that far is just the beginning. Toward the end of my high school career, I had my career choices narrowed down to about ve. One, become a sports broadcaster. is journey started when I was in middle school, where I began announcing school sports in my hometown. I loved baseball, still, though my contributions to the game were now going to be limited to my mind and voice, my two favorite things. Two, become a private investigator. This one probably jumps off the page as random, but I have an avid mind for picking up pieces and discovering truths. I always thought it would be cool to catch the bad guys as a detective, or get the scoops as a P.I. Three, go into business. I learned that I loved accounting in high school. I also was intrigued by the data I saw around work as I took on more responsibilities and thought about being more involved in business. Four, become a band director. I loved playing my trombone in the jazz, concert, and marching bands. I was an avid leader throughout high school and thought, “Hmm… why not pursue music?” I continuously thought about minoring in music in college to pair with another career choice, but was often advised by music students to either major in it, or drop it. Five, practice law. There goes my mind again.

Basically, when choosing a path, I always worried about a change occurring. I wondered if I would settle into my studies and think, “Wow, I’d rather be studying neuroscience,” or something along those lines. The biggest thing was that having fun and taking life slow in high school is alright, until you feel like the pressure is mounting, and the ow of the adulting “river” is pulling too fast downstream.

There is an overwhelming pressure to be educated. I spent so long thinking about where to go to school and for what, that I really ran out of time. It was time for senior awards night, and there I was, winning academic excellence and band awards, while most of my friends were walking up on stage to accept scholarships from numerous universities. I had still yet to decide where

I would be six months later. Because I was involved in so many different activities, however, there was usually the daily question or nine like, “Where you headed next year?” or “What are you studying” or the common “What do you want to do after high school?” and I usually found myself verbalizing the same rambled worry about there being “too many” things I want to do, or how I’m “not sure yet” what the heck I want to do. And often times I heard, “Oh well that’s  okay, you don’t have to know right away, just take your time and things will come to you.” It wasn’t until my graduation party when I got smart enough to say: “I’m going to GRCC to test the waters and get some general education out of the way.” This is the path I’ve chosen thus far, and I’m still unsure where to go next.

Though community college is a great way to go to save money and help you explore and give you time to gure out what you want to do, it may not always be the most “attractive” answer some are looking for. And some people may think, “so what? It’s smart, do what you got to do”, and as much as I agree with that, there is no denying there can be an insane amount of pressure by some people who think that you could be further along on your path. For instance, my sister went right to Central Michigan University and earned her bachelor’s degree in less than four years. She currently has an executive position at Kohl’s, and is starting her life already. For years, I bragged that I was going to be more successful than her, and in an instant. There’s that hope part. But ultimately, I have to pick the path I need to travel to get there.

I currently am a manager with Culver’s and I must say, my advancement with the company has been somewhat of a reward
to me. It has been a great tool for me, not only to advance within the company, but in my life as a whole. I have learned valuable skills and am even coordinating the Training Program, while also taking on management and development responsibilities. In many ways, I have surpassed my potential for this stage in a career, and am very proud of where I am. When telling people about Culver’s though, I can’t help but start to hear a worry in those people’s voices when they respond to it. See, I took the first semester of this past year, and worked full time. I commonly heard people say, “Well, you are planning on going to school soon, right?” and I usually feel pressured to answer with a laugh, and a phrase like: “Of course, just regrouping” or something in those lines.

There has always been a pressure to be educated, the quicker the better, the more you learn, the more you earn. Of course, having a degree is something that my educators, parents and many of my other role models have always told me is a necessity.

I understand that it is extremely beneficial, and I plan on getting there. But what’s the rush? I have a great job, I’m taking the classes I want to take, and narrowing down my career path each day. at pressure to jump on that path is always there. Again, I’ve often found myself wondering what the rush is, and, in today’s world, I often find myself dreaming of the dream I had when I was 4, before I could see over that skyscraper, that kitchen counter, that hid the rest of the whole wide world from me. When I dreamed of the next day, and not the next year, and so on. When I could allow my mind to change, without fear, only hope and wonder.

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