My fifteen-year-old daughter is in a key phase of schooling where there’s a lot of pressure to pick subjects that will (apparently) shape the rest of her working life. The thing is, her interests are varied and she does not know what career to pursue…yet. And that’s okay. My husband and I have been pondering about how to shape learning to align with life goals, and we’ve come to believe this: you have to grapple with uncertainty intentionally, press forward believing, and be open to opportunities.
This position we hold is drawn from experience and retrospect. Just the other day, my husband and I were discussing his career. On the outset, he wanted to pursue cardiology within the medical field. And yet, as he moved through training, it was surgery that drew him. Further down the track, health improvement doors opened. Twenty years ago, if you had told me my husband would pursue health organisation strategies, I would have laughed in disbelief!
My own journey has led me to return to university to study part-time. It was my intention to pursue creative writing, however I have found myself strongly drawn to political sociology, which shocked me. The thing is, if I chased my strength from high school, it would have been something mathematical. However I realise now, exploring humanities inspires me, and it took my return to study to cement this.
Not knowing what the future holds can be unsettling. However, I have learned that grappling with uncertainty intentionally is a key process in developing a strong identity that is essential for making confident life decisions. Studies show that individuals who intentionally test and grapple in an effort to discover their strengths and passions, develop a stronger identity and more satisfied working lives (for more information, read James Marcia’s identity statuses). I think it is important to note that trying new things perpetually without a focus is not always helpful. The essential thing is to press forward with intent and be open to new opportunities.
So, I say to my daughter, in the uncertainly she is experiencing right now, don’t be afraid of it. It is part of an important process. Embrace it intentionally and believe she will come out the other side stronger and wiser.