It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been twenty years this month since I graduated from high school.
I didn’t graduate around here. At the time, I was living in Las Vegas, Nevada. In, fact, I lived there from the time I was 12 to 23 years old. My high school graduating class had over 800 students, and I remember opening my yearbook one year to discover that I had never before seen the girl who was the homecoming queen.
I have good memories and bad memories from high school. But as I reflect on this twentieth year away from high school, it seems eerily long ago. I mean, it seems like it was someone else in another life. I don’t know if other people feel this way. Maybe it’s because my life’s experiences and moving so far away have me so far removed from that time. I am a completely different person, yet there’s part of me that hasn’t changed either.
I would not want to go back to those days, but I’ve often looked back on my life and wished that I knew then what I know now. Don’t we all? Though I appreciate the life I’ve lived, there are some things I would do differently.
Unfortunately, it’s hard for an eighteen-year-old to know what she wants to do with the rest of her life. If she has an inkling, I think she has an advantage because she can start planning and working toward her goals early. However, goals without mentors don’t always have a well-lit course. I wish I had sought out better mentors when I was young.
Whatever a young person’s goal might be, I think it’s important that they find people who are working in that field right now. If possible, they should find out the steps those people took to get there. Even better, they should try to contact the people directly. Get advice from more than one person.
If there are any trade journals dedicated to the field in the young person wants to pursue, they should read those. Look at job openings and read the requirements. See if there are any job openings available!
Don’t necessarily believe it when in college they tell you that you can do anything with an English major (or any liberal arts degree for that matter). Do they still say these things? I hope not. I got a degree in English, and I don’t think I would have changed that, but I would have looked for ways to supplement my degree while I was in college.
Part of the time I was in high school and college, I worked part-time at a department store. Looking back, I know it would have been better if I looked for internships or volunteer opportunities that would have given me very practical experience.
At the time I was interested in writing and publishing, but I didn’t even know that there was any such thing as an internship at a publishing house or literary magazine. Maybe I could have found some mentors, but at the time, I didn’t know the questions I needed to ask.
Unfortunately for me, I went to college when the Internet was still a fledgling and not widely used. I wonder how different my life might have been if I could have typed my interests into a search engine and come up with an endless list to sift through? I wonder if I would have made different decisions or found other places to travel to?
I’m grateful for the varied experiences I have had, and I’m happy about where I have ended up, but I do envy young people today and the tools they have at their fingertips.
Shelli Bond Pabis is a Winder resident and contributing columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.