Your whole life ahead of you…

“I have to sort my life out” is a common phrase one of my daughters uses often. At times it is used a little flippantly like to work out whether she is going out with friends or sorting out her study timetable. At other times it is for real life decisions that I am sure many young people are faced with today.

When I went to school, graduating just on thirty years ago the options were fewer. You either left at Year 10 (about 16 years old) and either

  • went to TAFE college to learn secretarial services if you were a girl or welding if you were a boy or
  • got an apprenticeship as a mechanic or hairdresser, again depending on your sex or
  • a job as farm hand, “check out chick”, shopkeeper or the like

About of third of students continued their schooling to Year 12. These were students who had plans to go to university or further study/employment that required the Higher School Certificate.

They were the choices – simple.

My brother was desperate to leave school in Year 10. He hated school. My parents agreed that he could leave school if he got a job. He attended 3 months of senior school before it became too much and he got a job as a shoe salesman for the next 2 years, until he worked out what he wanted to do with his life. Again a simple option, simple choice.

As another year of youth are finalising their study, ready to sit the Higher School Certificate I feel for them. The choices are countless, the competition to attain the dream job or tertiary course is intense. After watching and guiding my own children through the tumultuous years, exams and university offers I would like to offer the following thoughts to both children and parents – my pinch of advice.

  • Within two years no-one will ask you what your HSC result was. The HSC is a means to an end. If you need a score of 65 for your university course, then 65 is your Utopia, not 99.9.
  • It is not just about the study. Your success and opportunities for scholarships and employment will increase with the amount you volunteer in your community throughout high school. Plus volunteering is rewarding, you grow your networks and also have people to ask to be your referee. All bonuses!
  • You will probably have five different careers in your life. It is not like your grandparents era, when the job you got the day you left school is the job you will have for the next forty years. Make a choice and own it, knowing you can try something else down the track.
  • Enjoy the freedom and carefree life of being a young adult. You will never get this again, don’t be in a hurry.

As a parent it is difficult not to influence (sway) your children’s choices to what you think they should do.

  • Don’t try to live your dreams through your child. Just because you didn’t go to Uni doesn’t necessarily mean your child has to. Discuss with them, mentor and guide but don’t force.
  • If they are getting up each morning and going to work and earning a wage or studying, be thankful and support them.
  • Let them leave home, leave to go to another town. I am observing so many parents who are not willing to let their children experience a wider world beyond a small country town and it saddens me. It is tough to let go but they need to spread their wings.
  • If they do go and come back do not let them think they have failed – there is no failure in life just learning experiences. Always keep the home door open.
  • Be proud of them, no matter their choice.
  • Its a team effort

Image: © Can Stock Photo Inc. / PixelsAway; 

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