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Holding It All Together-So Now What?

By Amy McCollom

“Hey kid…you just graduated from high school. So now what?”

I am writing this on the eve of my own son’s college graduation. He is the first of my children to accomplish this. I am very proud of him, and his newly-wed wife, who is also graduating tomorrow. They have plans in place, jobs, a house, and a ‘Now What.’ I am very proud of them, to say the least.

But to be honest, my “Now What’ after high school didn’t go as planned, mostly because I didn’t have much of a plan after high school. I was tired of school and schedules and timelines and especially of people telling me what to do and when to do it. I wanted some freedom and time to think about who I was and what I wanted to do. 

For years I had felt like my parents and teachers were pushing me into this mold or that box, but there was too much of me that didn’t fit any mold or box. I needed to just be me for a hot minute, before I could turn into anything else. It’s ok to be undecided, as long as it doesn’t last too long. You don’t want to be living with your parents when you’re 40. And your parents don’t want that either.

It’s great if you know exactly who you are and what you want to be. Kudos to you! That is what leaders are made of; people who can make up their minds and stick with it.

My mom bribed me into going to college instead of taking a semester off and working right after high school. She told me she would get me a car if I went to Parkland College, so I agreed. 

It was the wrong decision. Since I liked to write and was kind of good at it, she thought I would be a good newspaper writer. (Imagine that.) She signed me up to major in Communications, and my first semester I took a lot of the basic courses. 

My favorite thing I learned at Parkland was how to play Euchre, which I picked up by hanging out with a group of new friends I met, behind the library steps. I did ok in my classes, but boy did I get good at Euchre. 

My sister suddenly decided she wanted to go to college too, so then I had to share the car with her, which wasn’t part of the deal. And then when my sister quit college after one semester to take a job, she got the car and I got the shaft. I was forced to continue going to college, but had to bum rides from people to get there. I did not enjoy college. I still did not know for sure what I wanted to become, or what career path I wanted to pursue. 

You see, there was no internet back in 1983, and finding out what different jobs were really like was not easy. So how could I know what I wanted to do the rest of my life when I didn’t know what a job was really like? What if I went to college for four years to become something, got a job, then discovered I didn’t like doing that. I would be stuck.

Now, with the internet, and all the information in the world at your fingertips, you can find out exactly what you are getting yourself into, and can make an educated decision. You can job-shadow, watch Youtube videos, research the careers, and take career matching tests to find out what best fits you and your personality. 

Even then, college isn’t for everyone. We need crafts people to keep this country running. Electricians, mechanics, plumbers, carpenters. We need you. Not everyone can become a banker or lawyer or teacher. We need artists and violinists and drummers. We need all kinds of people, and everyone has a talent to offer.

Find your talent and you will find the real you. Whatever it is that you love to do, find a job that fits that love. Life is shorter than you think. I have lived long enough to know that happiness doesn’t come from things, but from experiences and relationships and from peace with God.

So graduates, old and young, just be you, the real you, and may your path in life be led by God rather than man. For after all, He knows what is best for us and is the author and finisher of our faith. God bless.

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