My moving adventures have continued into the fall. A few months ago, we moved our youngest into what we thought at the time was a temporary apartment in Kansas City. She had been hired as a seasonal employee and was planning to spend 6 months earning her first official, post-college paychecks and then continue her job search. At the 11th hour, she was offered and accepted a permanent position doing the work of her childhood dreams.
I think Nina was about 5 when she stated her intention of being a dolphin trainer when she grew up. While that intent has changed form a bit over the years, she never strayed from her desire to work with animals. Last week, she started her permanent job working as a zoo keeper. And I drove down to help her move.
During one of our breaks from unpacking boxes and putting together furniture, she talked about her path thus far and her future. The uncertainty of young adulthood is a bit of a rocky road for my ‘have to have a plan’ girl. She is most comfortable when she knows what is ahead of her and the wonky road to full-time, permanent zoo employment has been challenging. Her job offer gave her a great sense of relief – now she can dig in, learn her craft and stay put for awhile.
At one point, while discussing all of this, she paused and said, “this is the first time in my life that I don’t have an end date. College, internships and the seasonal job all had end dates. I knew when they would be over and that I would be coming home to figure out the next step. I don’t have that any more.” Yep – that pretty much sums up this phase of her life – no end date.
I think that concept brings out very different feelings depending on the stage of one’s life. In his Broadway show, Bruce Springsteen talked about his youth and commented that one of the things he misses about getting older is the absence of the blank page in front of him. In his youth, he felt his life was laid out ahead in a series of many, many blank pages on which to write the course of his life – and the loss he now feels with few of those pages left.
But for the person staring at those blank pages, they can be exciting, hopeful, scary and sometimes a little paralyzing. So many choices – and how do you know what the right one is at any given time. Well, the hard lesson of adulthood is that we don’t. We can only see so far down the road before it curves out of sight. The choice of a path is a leap of faith. Having spent a good deal of my professional life with young adults in the beginning of their careers, my advice was always the same. You will never have less to lose than you do now. You will never have fewer obligations in your life than you do now. If ever there is a time to take a chance – this is it. Make it a smart one. Do your research, use your common sense. And once that is done – follow your choice as far as it reasonably takes you. Then rinse and repeat.
A few years ago, I caught up with a former student. I had heard about some great things she was doing with her young life and wanted to hear more about it. While still in high school, Destiny Watson started You Matter 2 – a non-profit, youth-centered group committed to empowering youth leaders and leadership in the South Suburbs of Chicago. She has continued her work along with her studies at the University of Dayton, where she is currently a senior, pursuing a degree in Human Rights Studies.
In her own words – “You Matter 2 strives to dynamically empower emerging youth leaders to create a generation of change. Our organization consists of 7th-12th grade students from the south suburban area who believe in changing the world. This group is dedicated to changing the world and giving back to their communities.”
Through community events, education and volunteerism, Destiny is helping to build a cadre of youth leaders to tackle local issues of poverty, literacy and education as well as global issues of hunger and access to clean water. Her drive to empower youth to make the world a better, safer place is remarkable. This is a young woman who has embraced the blank pages ahead of her. I am pleased to direct our October sale proceeds to the work of Destiny and You Matter 2. Thank you for helping me help such a worthy cause.
As for my zoo keeper, the latest texts and pictures are a pretty good indication that she is settling in well to her life with no end date…