Throughout my high school experience I could regrettably feel the reverberating ‘you need to figure out what you should do with your life’ mantra breathing down my neck from every guidance counselor within the nearest galaxy. This may sound a bit dramatic, but the truth of the matter is that there was an immense pressure to figure out myself, my future, and my life itself at 18 years old.
In fact, not just from guidance counselors was this the universal language, but from the overwhelming majority of adults too. Although with good intentions and in an attempt to be helpful, harm was done. Harm left in the hands of 17 to 18 year old boys and girls left to figure out their futures, while trying to make sense of themselves. I certainly don’t want to downplay the middle school induced post-traumatic stress that comes from those awkward years- to what some deem an eternity long. Navigating the once and a lifetime feelings of early teenagedom where so much is happening in, through, and around you is a circus act in itself. This is a grandiose process that spills into the high school years and beyond- ultimately affecting us as adults and the trajectory of our lives.
Instead of pigeon-holing teenagers into a pressure-based decision with a shot clock that is progressively winding down- with a proverbial echo of:
“FIGURE OUT THE REST OF YOUR LIFE- NOW!” …(crickets)…
Why not set them up for an alley oop dunk instead of a emphatic block back in their faces. This pressure and unnecessary expectation has not helped in allowing young adults to find themselves nor focus on the future trajectory of their lives. There has to be a better way. The high school experience is meant to develop educational and vocational interests that lead to further investigation at the university/college or work/trade season of life. As one studies at the university level they hopefully come to a place of greater discernment in what specific vocation they want to pursue in life. As a mentor of mine says:
“Graduation is the commencement to a life of learning.”
My mentor and friend turned out to not only be a college professor but also a leading expert and internationally known speaker on the life and writing of C.S. Lewis. All that to say- he turned out pretty well. Notice his words: “Graduation is the commencement to a life of learning.” If only this mantra would echo down the halls of our high schools, instead of the bad breath of pressure-based expectations that scream stress, falsified expectations, and fear. I’m not insinuating to not care about your future or not plan for what lies ahead, but rather to take the time and invest in yourself by experiencing the process of yourself- as a young adult, exactly where you’re at in the present moment. I think we could do this best by adopting the philosophy of life-long learning, and seeing graduation as a springboard towards a life of knowledge, growth, and transformation.
So maybe the Western/American educational system has set young people up for career and vocational failure?
What if we have been doing it wrong this entire time?
You don’t have to agree with this interrogation of a societal and cultural normality, and you might not even personally relate with this experience. Maybe your high school experience was one in which you were fully supported in the ambiguity of the process of questioning the next phase of your life, or maybe you just knew all along what was ahead for you. Whatever your journey has been, the ideal and ultimate reality would be a unified front of support and confidence between students and the many influential voices speaking and giving direction to them. What if we turned towards reimagining a landscape of holistic growth and development of students? A landscape that promoted self-investment and encouraged a mentality of relishing in the process of oneself- of knowing God, knowing oneself, knowing others, and knowing our deepest desires. I wonder how things would change if more and more high schools (and influential adult voices) across the world took a collective breath and encouraged students in the struggle of making futuristic decisions within their lives. Practically, this can take shape and form in a myriad of ways, but I wonder how much investment in self- could go a long, long way. We believe that at the OneLife Institute students are encouraged in the process and adventure of discovering who they are- as a Christian, a unique individual, a leader, and the trajectory of their futures. OneLife is one of the best ‘next level’ options for a young person to consider in his/her future plans towards taking the next steps ahead in their journey of following God.
Benjamin Case – Resident Leader