A long line at the supermarket makes me twiddle my thumbs and wish for a fast-forward button. I have similar feelings about stop-and-go traffic. All the wait, wait, waiting takes time away from the people I love and the activities I hold dear.
And that kind of waiting is the easiest – you can see the finish-line and you know that if you hang in there, just a few minutes more, the line will end and the traffic will part. But what about the longer kind of waiting – the kind that entails transitioning to a new life stage?
The ‘stage of life’ wait is more abstract, and the blurry outline provides room for all sorts of what-if questions and worst-case scenarios. What if I don’t get into college? Can l find a job with an art major? Will I like working as a marketing associate?
Surely you’re familiar with these questions – we’ve all had them. I woke up with ‘what if’ questions on mind, mused about them while I sipped my coffee, and then tossed them aside to go hiking with my husband.
I remind myself that it’s impossible to control the future, but I can work diligently, here and now, to enjoy the present.
Back to school, back to school, except this time, I’m the teacher. A couple weeks ago I got a call from Junior Achievement asking if I would teach a class on ‘resume building’ to low-income high school students. The achievement gap in Minneapolis (the worst in the nation) is an issue close to my heart, and so I immediately volunteered.
I remember visiting my high school guidance counselor to learn the ins and outs of financial aid. When I presented a transcript loaded with AP course and A+ marks, she asked if I was vying for the valedictorian spot.
“No – I just really need a scholarship.”
“Well then – you’re working too hard. Why don’t you drop the AP courses and take some fun classes? Do you like ceramics or cooking?”
“Will that make me appear more well-rounded to the financial aid committee?”
She chuckled and explained that any of the community colleges in the area were already in the bag. “You’ll probably get a full-scholarship, so why worry?”
I told her I wanted a scholarship to a university.
She looked forlorn, explained that scholarships were competitive and unlikely, and told me that I might be better off working and saving money.
A few days later, my favorite English teacher sat me down and taught me how to apply for funding at various universities. I ended up getting a scholarship to my top pick.
Looking back, I’m grateful and thankful and all sorts of appreciative that Mrs. Miller took the time to make a difference. Now, 10 years later, I’m working to do similar things for the teens in my community.
And, can I tell you what? It’s amazing what a difference you can make in a day. I know I was only talking about resumes, but when I asked the class the top 2 things that should be on a resume, the first words out of their mouth were “birthday!” and “ethnicity!”
Woah, cowboy! Time for class.
I held a Q&A session at the end of each class, and I was humbled by the sweet and sincere questions the students asked: Can I wear casual clothes if I’m a dog walker? Is it unprofessional to ride my bike to interviews?
People often talk about wisdom they wish to give their younger self. To be honest, there isn’t any particular advice that I think would have helped me.
What I do dream about, however, is going back to my most vulnerable moments – times when I suffered so much I felt nearly hopeless – and saying “feel this – this goodness is what’s coming to you.” How I wish my younger self could have know that the pain and confusion would lead to a joy beyond comparison.
And that joy that I’m talking about it – it’s not just for confused or scared high school students — it’s for anyone struggling to get somewhere, how do we say, lighter. Whatever you’re going through, remember how quickly things can change for the better, and have faith in yourself and others that good things are coming.
When you’re living the best days of you life, you’ll know it. I remember feeling anxious in high school whenever someone announced that ‘it doesn’t get better than this’ and ‘you’ll always remember these moments.’
During high school, I made happy memories with friends that I still call/text/snap-chat on a daily basis. But, to be honest, those four years don’t come close to being the best time of my life. And you know what? Neither does college or graduate school.
I’ve packed a lot of exploring and loving and learning and suffering into my short life. I’ve met amazing people, had wonderful adventures, and got myself into quite a few tricky situations.
The best part about all of those experiences, however, is that they combine to create an incredibly meaningful present. I look back at high school and college and the years before and after, and I’m thankful for the memories and the lessons and the people that got me to where I am today.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to write something similar in another 25 years. Isn’t it a happy thought that the best days of our lives haven’t happened yet?
Can I be honest and tell you that I didn’t intend to blog about anything written above? I was a volunteer judge for ‘Odyssey of the Mind’ this weekend, and the competition got me thinking how much I wished creativity conferences existed while I was in high school. My post was going to be about the need for creativity in schools and how we should push for programs that support imagination, but my wandering mind had other ideas.