As I sit here today thinking about what advice a man of my age can impart to the young people who are about to graduate and move on with their lives, I guess I have one question for you…
“Who are you?”
Some of you are older teenagers, graduating from high school; others are in your early twenties, graduating from college, and perhaps even some of you are mature, older adults who have gone back to school to get that elusive degree in an effort to change the course of your future, more to your liking. Nonetheless, the question I have is that now you’ve completed this important aspect of your life, how much closer are you to understanding who you really are? Who do you want to be; what do you want to be?
When I first began high school back in the day, I checked out a book from the library—that’s the way we did it in those days. The book was entitled, Your Careerin Data Processing.” Some back story to bring you up to speed: this was before personal computers ever existed, much less the Internet. Many companies ran on pen and paper and performed accounting practices through journals, etc. The computers that were being used by mid-size to large companies were huge by comparison. For instance, there’s more power on the desktop computer I’m writing this on than there was in many companies’ entire systems. I was hooked; I knew this was what I wanted to do.
As luck would have it, I eventually got my “dream job” working as Manager of Computer Operations for a furniture manufacturer. Today they call it IT (Information Technology). My career goal had been achieved, or so I thought, at least; ultimately, though, life had other plans, as is oftentimes the case. In this situation, however, that’s a good thing. I love what I do, and it’s something that comes naturally to me. And I know it’s something that I’ve become better at over the years. So if you asked me that same question today, “Who are you?” my obvious response would be, “I’m a writer.”
Therefore, I want to take this question a little deeper. After all, if you had asked me back in high school I would have said, “I’m going to work with computers one day,” never imagining that nearly everyone would be able to say the same thing in some form. Yet, I would have been wrong, because that’s what I’d planned to do with my career—not, however, who I was. It’s only through accident really that I discovered I had a skill for writing. Later on in my career, after deciding information technology wasn’t a good fit for me, I began work as a technical writer, and found that line of work to more suitably match my skill set. The writing was formal and less creative, but even so, it was still writing. It felt like a natural progression when I ultimately began writing commercially. Today, I’m doing something that I feel matches my natural abilities, and something I want to continue doing as long as I can be successful at it. That’s quite a change from the fourteen-year-old boy in high school meticulously planning his future, thinking he had it all figured out.
Which brings me back to you… again I ask, “Who are you?” If you could spend every day of the next week doing a single thing you liked, what would it be? What would you do, even if you weren’t getting paid for it? What passions lie inside you, regardless of what major you’re going to study in college, or degree you ultimately obtain(ed) upon college graduation? That’s what you felt at the time, perhaps that’s what you’ll go into at the beginning of your career, or perhaps life has other plans. Regardless, take a moment to ask yourself, is there something inside you that drives you and inspires you and fits your natural talents and abilities? You may not know yet; it may not be time. But if you do, take some time to imagine yourself in that place, and see if it’s something that you can make a reality one day. If so, then plan on it; make it happen, maybe not at first, but eventually. I assure you, you’ll be happier for it.
Congratulations to the graduates of 2019. May each of you find the eventual answer to that all-important question and achieve it for yourself in the future, whatever it happens to be. Till then, I wish you the very best, and may your glass always be half-full.