- Photo Blogs
- Special Reports
His path is well lined — he wants to attend the University of Missouri-Columbia for a degree in engineering, and he is certain he wants to join Reserve Officer Training Corps. His path is also well trod, as both his father and grandfather served before him.
Not everyone is lucky enough to have a plan.
Senior Ukiah Johnson, for instance, has struggled to find his true calling. For him, school has been a stumbling block as he realized nothing really interested him.
“I’m mediocre at everything, and there’s no one thing that comes out and is like, ‘Hey, come do me,’” Johnson said. “I’m not really good at anything.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 68.1% of high school graduates were enrolled in college in 2011, but the number with a career in mind is unknown. Johnson said for him and many of his friends, that career is still a mystery.
“I don’t really feel any pressure, which might be part of the problem of why I haven’t figured out what to do with myself,” Johnson said. “I’ve had talks with people about how they have no idea what they want to do with themselves, either.”
Johnson said the main thing holding him back is his own brain; he cannot bear to fail. This fear of failure, he recognizes, has strangled many opportunities and has left him stranded, unable to find a passion.
“I realize it’s a skill, and it takes time to get good at, but I don’t like doing things I’m not good at,” Johnson said. “I don’t ever develop a skill, and it’s just a vicious cycle.”
Senior Dakotah Cooper has a different problem; he had to give up a dream. At 12, he made his first pie at Thanksgiving and fell in love with baking. In high school, he took an interest in culinary arts and was even accepted to Johnson & Wales University in Denver, a school that specializes in culinary degrees. The costs of such a journey, however, grew prohibitive, so Cooper abandoned his dream of baking for the film program at MU.
“A lot of it was distance away from home and just financial stuff,” Cooper said. “I looked at my opportunities here, and the film program caught my interest because it’s the perfect balance of what I do on a regular basis here at Rock Bridge, writing and acting, so why not?”
Cooper said he doesn’t see MU as a negative turn, however. After all, career changes happen often — the average is seven to 10 in a lifetime according to the BLS.
“Life’s full of wrong choices because once you’ve made a mistake you know not to make that mistake again,” Cooper said. “And I’ve already done it, so it’s all good.”
Senior Andrew Belzer is scared of the wrong choice. His philosophy is that college, not high school, is the place to decide what to do with one’s life. If he decides, Belzer said he will feel trapped by his choice.
“I don’t want to get pinned down this early in life,” Belzer said. “If I choose one career path right now, one option, I’ll be stuck with it for at least a few years if not the rest of my life, and I don’t want to do that until I’m sure about what I’m getting into.”
Counselor Jane Piester said his is a fairly common mindset among both seniors and juniors. While the guidance department’s goal is to make sure every student has a plan for after high school, Piester said students can feel very nervous about what comes next.
“I think students that don’t leave here with some pretty specific plans and goals maybe feel a little more fearful,” Piester said. “Fewer of them know exactly what they want to major in, what they want to study and where they see themselves five years from now.”
Belzer said even though he doesn’t have a career
plan, he’s fine with the uncertainty. Despite not having a major in mind, he feels he can make a good decision on a college with other information.
“I look at where I know people, what I’m familiar with, what I’m comfortable with,” Belzer said, “just somewhere where I can be independent but also somewhere where I have a lot of choices.”
Despite Belzer’s positive attitude, Johnson said not having a plan has many downsides. For him, the lack of a plan has caused enormous stress.
“I’m super stressed about the fact that I don’t have a plan and don’t have any idea with what I’m going to do with my life,” Johnson said. “I’m afraid of ending up fat on a couch in my parent’s basement.”
The quest to find life after high school is not an easy one. Students such as Johnson struggle to find the balance between success and failure, and like Cooper, many must make tough choices that will affect the rest of their lives.
Belzer, though, is happy to let the experiences come.
“I know I want to do something I enjoy, and I think I’ll be able to find that pretty quickly,” Belzer said. “I’m pretty positive that I can get a decent start in the world, even if it’s not at an amazing paying job.”
By Adam Schoelz