After College Graduation
Here’s the conversation:
Me: How old is Trevor?
Me: Where did Trevor go to college?
Parent: (You name it) University
Me: What is/How is Trevor doing today?
Parent: (Face ever-so-slightly drops, eyes dart elsewhere, hands subtly move into a clasp or prayerful position) Oh…he’s ok. Has a hard time finding himself. Living at home for now, but looking to move out soon. Has a new girlfriend (or boyfriend), has had a few jobs, but…(voice trails off).
Whenever I sit with practically any given parent of a current high school student — a mom or dad who has already been to this four-year-college rodeo with an older kid, I’ve noticed a commonality of reactions that more or less follow that script.
That dejected little response is even more forlorn if that parent happens to be unlucky enough to have a friend or relative whose same-age child reportedly took off like a rocket after college graduation (DAMN those sorts!). And usually that parent of the alleged dynamo is smug and aggressive about extolling same-age child’s wondrous triumphs. It’s enough to make any one of us vomit forever. I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust that particular sort of bragging — one can usually bet something’s amiss.
Ten Curious Things Parents Do To Mess Up Their Kid’s College Journey
Curious Thing #3
Curious Expectation of “Junior”
To Strike Out On His Own Straight From College,
Actually Make Ends Meet and
Find Job Satisfaction Forever After
Figuring Things Out
If you are the parent of a 20-something kid who you judge deep down in your stomach to be colossally floundering, take heart. I bring you the good news that this state of being is entirely normal for most young adults in this day and age. Don’t worry. The vast majority of them eventually figure things out. It’s nowadays nowhere close to being addressed via a rapid and tidy process.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve experienced some version of that opening dialogue. One thing has been clear to me for a good while now, and it is that most parents of early-to-mid-20s-something adults share charter membership in the Private Idaho Of Parental Shame. I swear psychotherapists would make their fortunes by putting together warm-and-fuzzy support groups for them. Most of these parents are some combination of anxious, frustrated, terrified, exasperated, wistful, bewildered, ashamed.
Go to College. Get a Good Job. Right?
As you know, nearly all aspects of life change in every way imaginable. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any condition or situation that remains constant throughout time, except for the most basic human needs — love, sustenance, shelter, spirituality. Beyond that level, every little thing or experience is growing or diminishing. Think about it. Nothing is static.
That said, I’ve surmised that a current teenager’s parent expects the outcome of a 4 year college degree to deliver a 1944-era marketable skill to her newly graduated offspring.
When the GIs arrived home from World War II, an undergrad degree became a white-hot commodity. The GIs went to and graduated from college, entered the early days of a lifelong career, and collected gold watches at lovely retirement parties.
Hey there. It ain’t happenin’ anymore.
Relax and roll with the punches. Life’s opportunities are different now. Do whatever you can to help, but don’t expect more than what’s currently possible to produce. Young adults are different from us at their age. We don’t even know how to predict what skills and talents will be needed a mere five years from now. Our polite society nowadays lives for the moment. That said, how can we expect Junior to rise above this fledgling universal truth and quickly find his way against all odds?
Choosing to not batter you with a centuries-long history of higher ed’s development in America (look it up on Wikipedia — a pretty darned fascinating read, I have to say), my way-watered-down summary of these bygone times is that the USA’s current 4 year college trend hit popular culture with a vengeance as the aforementioned GIs returned to U.S. soil and it became wildly prevalent for marketable skills preparation to involve the acquisition of a four-year degree.
Colleges and universities tooled up for the onslaught where curriculum offerings were adjusted in response to the demand. Possibilities of financial aid from Uncle Sam steadily rose to prominence as the masses continued to beg for that sexy bachelor’s degree.
The vast majority of them eventually figure things out.
Life Evolves. Culture and Social Needs Change.
For the first time in history, it became common for a middle-class Mom-and-Pop couple to entertain a realistic notion that their post-war charge could actually become a bona fide college graduate! The steadfast message the masses heard was “Go to college and get a good job.”
Until that point in time, any collegiate institution was singularly tasked with feeding the life of the mind. Suddenly it was being aggressively asked to deliver delineated real-world marketable skills to its new customers. — at least ones that appeared that way on the surface.
But again, life evolves. Culture, challenges, societal needs are very different in 2020. This fact is clear to each of us, yes? — that is, without launching into that daily dull discussion of how Apple has ruined our lives. Yet curiously, we consult our amazing iPhones like oracles on a minute-by-minute basis while doggedly expecting the design and benefits of a four-year college degree to deliver exactly the same outcome as put forth within those long-gone post-war years.
What, exactly, is a current-day undergrad degree supposed to offer that’s so stinking important?
After all, you paid for something that put your retirement further into your now-out-of-site future thus what does Junior have to show for your sacrifice as well as some probable debt on his part?
Simply put, the 4 year experience tidily offers a much-needed internship in living a quasi-adult lifestyle with some clever supports and controls put into place. After all, the current world is a complex one.
More importantly, I could wax poetic about the intangible intellectual benefits of higher ed, but I’ll spare you my klutzy attempts at explaining ephemeral notions that are outside my range of clarity and patience. Instead, I’ll leave you with my favorite passage that more gracefully addresses the issue. Here you go….
“The dull predictability of prescribed elite career paths is, if nothing else, repugnant as a moral spectacle. Never to have tasted the pleasures; always to have played it safe. Never to have thrown your life upon the scales; always to have been sober and orderly. Never to have followed an ideal; always to have been sure of yourself. Who wants to live like that? Far better to resist the temptation of security. Emerson quotes Oliver Cromwell: ‘A man never rises so high as when he knows not whither he is going.’ The desire to eliminate uncertainty eliminates life.””The dull predictability of prescribed elite career paths is, if nothing else, repugnant as a moral spectacle. Never to have tasted the pleasures; always to have played it safe. Never to have thrown your life upon the scales; always to have been sober and orderly. Never to have followed an ideal; always to have been sure of yourself. Who wants to live like that? Far better to resist the temptation of security. Emerson quotes Oliver Cromwell: ‘A man never rises so high as when he knows not whither he is going.’ The desire to eliminate uncertainty eliminates life.”
Check out next month’s Thing #4. I’m working on it now, so please stay tuned!
Anne Cochran is an award-winning leader of a small and passionate team of educators who opened Valley International Preparatory High School (VIPHS) in August 2018. — a new charter high school dedicated to providing 21st-Century-informed college options to grades 9-12. As a former marketing veteran within Hollywood’s film industry and small-business owner, Anne redirected her career interests nearly 12 years ago to addressing a need she observed within secondary public education, which is to bring optional college options to public school-educated teens who would otherwise be presented with very limited choices. Anne has been married for over 45 years to Chuck Cochran, creator and namesake of “Chuck Cochran’s Music Lab” at VIPHS, and they have two grown children.