My Daughter’s Graduation Reminds Me to Keep on Dreaming
On Saturday, my oldest daughter will dawn her cap and gown and cross the stage to collect the diploma she worked hard to earn. As I watch her and her friends finishing off their four years, a few things in particular strike a chord in me. They’ve got something so many of us older folks forget. They remind me of how important it is to make a difference in the world and how making a difference gives meaning ot our lives.
When my daughter graduated from high school, she wanted to become a science teacher. She had some great role models. She liked working with kids and did really well in her science classes. As she started the science program in college, side-by-side with pre-med students, she realized it wasn’t exactly what she expected.
Somewhere in the middle of her sophomore year, she told us she’d picked her major – Integrated Communications. She explained that it was a combination of marketing, advertising and communications. But somehow she still wanted to be involved with children. So that summer, she made some connections and landed herself a fundraising job at a children’s cancer hospital. She returned there again this past summer for her second year as an intern. A few weeks ago, she interviewed for a position in the same office in a fund raising (they call it development I hear) position. (No news yet, but please keep her in your prayers.)
Contrast this with a conversation I had with an old high school buddy of mine. His daughter’s graduating this month too and she’s been accepted to a New York City program teaching inner city kids. He was proud of her accomplishments, but was concerned about her safety, the affordability of NYC and her “Peacecorp” like salary. “How’s she going to make it?” he asked.
As the father of an almost college grad, I can completely relate. But in the back of my mind I can so identify with the passion driving that kid. She so badly wants to make a difference and that energy source drives her more powerfully than caring for her own self interest. Good for her!
A few weeks back, I caught the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus on TV. In it, Richard Dreyfuss plays a musician who early in life stumbles into teaching leaving behind his desire to write his symphony, his opus. Over his 30 year career at the school, we watch him inspire students and making a difference in the lives of his students. Unfortunately, his career ends with a school cutback in the arts progam. He is forced into retirement and describes it like this to a friend:
You work for 30 years because you think that what you do makes a difference, you think it matters to people, but then you wake up one morning and find out, well no, you’ve made a little error there, you’re expendable.
It isn’t until we see his students give him a surprise recognition event that we see so clearly that Mr. Holland’s Opus was never his symphony, but the impact he made on so many lives.
We need meaning in our lives. We need careers that support some aspect of that meaning. In the movie “Up in the Air” (a MUST see for every working and non-working professional out there) Ryan Bingham, played by George Clooney, confronts a guy he’s just fired with the following words:
Ryan Bingham: Your resume says you minored in French Culinary Arts. Most students work the fryer at KFC. You bused tables at Il Picatorre to support yourself. Then you got out of college and started working here. How much did they pay you to give up on your dreams?
Bob: Twenty seven thousand a year.
Ryan Bingham: At what point were you going to stop and go back to what made you happy?
I’m at a point in my life where I really enjoy what I do. I’ve switched from a hardcore software development career to marketing, business development, blogging (you’re sampling ny stuff) and teaching as an adjunct at the local colleges. I needed to venture in a new direction to make better use of my interpersonal skills and interact with students at this critical time in their lives. I really enjoy giving them the guidance I know I was missing when I was in college.
It’s been a sharp and sometimes tough career turn, but it’s definitely given me purpose and I feel jazzed every morning taking on the next thing my work dishes out at me.
I’ve coached people who complain about the fruitlessness of their careers. They are dissatisfied with their lives and sometimes are even aware their careers are at the center of their problem. At the same time, these people can’t bring themselves to make the changes needed to reach a better alignment. They’re too:
- accustomed to the money,
- burdened by responsibilities and obligations or
- unwilling to face the fears and insecurities a change might entail.
That’s really sad.
To my daughter and the graduating class of 2010, I say avoid this mistake. Follow your dreams. Take some chances. Take some risks. Go out there and change the world. Very few people reach my age and says to themselves,
“I wish I had been more conservative. I wish I had taken a more secure route in my life and career.”
Many do live with regrets concerning things they wish they had done and never got around to doing.
Responsibilities and obligations will follow. I can assure you of that. But do not let them blow out your flame. You may not always be able to keep you dreams front, right and center, but keep them in there somewhere so your passions continue fueling you and driving you to deliver as you were meant to deliver.
Hope this helps.