The timeline from high school to typical age of graduation from a post secondary institution is very interesting. A lot of us are around 17-18 years old during senior year of high school, being prodded to that next step: college, university, straight to work..a break? We’re expected to carve out a path that’s meant to put us in a lane that will last us the rest of our lives.
It starts with planning the next 3-4 years, and as we’re often told, this means higher education. We’re placed in front of recruiters from various institutions all selling different programs meant to prepare us for the job world which seems to steadily be getting more competitive. Before I go forward, this isn’t about to be an attack on the post secondary education system. More so, a critique on the age and timeline in which we are faced with this level of decision making. We’re shown a whole listing of websites, from university homepages to job sites that tell us descriptions for any job that comes to mind along with a salary and career path. This all sounds rather helpful, and it is. With all these resources around is it really shouldn’t be an issue picking an area that fits our character and ambition and going for it. Everything is pretty much planned. Set in stone.
That’s it. Set in stone. We graduate around the age of 22-23. By this point we should have accumulated a resume filled with internships, academic achievement, sports accomplishments, and volunteering hours. Enough to make us lucrative investments to companies hiring. The key word is we ‘should’ have. Assuming all went well in those four to five years leading up to graduation.
The four years from 18 to 22 are what I deem as formative years. I believe that while we definitely learn a lot in high school, going through many of our initial experiences revolving around romance, loyalty, job responsibility, etc., the four years that follows is where we truly decide what values we hold on to and which ones we let go, often due to lack of maturity in high school years. The pace of personal growth skyrockets on a year by year basis. Incidentally, we become completely different individuals than who we were when we graduated high school. This is where it gets difficult.
The ‘toxic’ introduces itself when we graduate high school. The decisions we make regarding our futures, in context, are of that of a 18-year-old who is in many ways lacking in critical thinking. I know that speaking personally, I have countless ideas from back then that barely resemble what I believe now. With this in mind, that toxic that has been created spreads yearly as we proceed through our post secondary education. For those in a similar predicament as me, we come to a grave realization before we graduate. We are just not in a program fit for us an now we are expected to keep pursuing that route based on expectations set by our parents, friends, and even our ‘old’ selves. Some of us may be lucky. We may see that as soon as we start our programs, or at least before we reach the halfway point. But for the rest, whether that halfway point has past, or they and/or their parents have already invested too much financially, that sinking feeling in your stomach manifests itself, inflicting a wound on self purpose. The toxic that was created during that final year of high school has spread and now it feels like it can’t go away.
Our parents tell us to stick it out and that we made our choice, but in these times, where saturated opportunity can often be new opportunity in disguise, I’m getting tired of hearing what I have to do because of what’s been done. We’re meant to feel at this point that since we have graduated we don’t have much time left, and that is exactly what toxic does to the body.
I’m only 22. I have so much time ahead of me. I refuse to believe everything should be decided at this point. I guess it comes down to the discomfort with transitioning from a follower to a leader. Stepping outside of a comfort zone can feel unsettling at first, but if we want to combat this toxic we have to search for a cure. However long it takes, with enough persistence that cure will be found. Just know that the toxic will be at its peak during this time, and it will wear you down, trying to take over. It will be a mental battle. The ‘doctors’ around you may even say there is no cure and start finding alternatives to living with it at a subdued level. Keep in mind what gave you the toxic. There’s time. That’s not to say that you can wait, but that there is time to work towards the cure. Once you get that first taste, I don’t need to explain how it will feel. We will react accordingly in our own unique way.