…Is That There Are No Secrets
A Few Myths Teenagers Should Know
I was surprised they even knew who I was; after all I am merely a recent college graduate in a town I did not grow up in nor did I attend high school there. However, a teacher at this high school was a friend of one of my professors at Texas Tech, and because of some of the projects I worked on as an undergraduate, she asked that I come speak to her students.
This led me to my second thought, what do they want me to talk about?
Her answer was simple, “High school is a training ground for life,” she said. “And sometimes hearing from soldiers in the field is more effective than listening to the drill sergeants in the classroom.”
This was all said in jest, of course, because we all know high school, nor life, is anything like that of war, but I understood what she meant. In a metaphorical sense, I was, I am, a soldier in the war that can be life.
There are No Cheat Codes to Life
A common theme associated in speeches given to high school students is usually something along the lines of ‘The things you will wish you had known.” While I whole heartedly agree that there are things that each of us learn as we grow up, I am not sure it is as simple as saying had we known them when we were in high school our lives would have been different. These so called life lessons are important more for the reason that we learned them than that we know them.
In other words, it is the act of learning these lessons on your own that will help young people survive the good and the bad that life brings. So I am sorry for anyone reading this that is hoping for the cheat codes to the most difficult levels of life, I do not have those for you. Everyone forms their own, I know this because I had to do, and am still doing, the same.
Instead I am going to clear up a few myths, or common misconceptions, about life after high school. I am certainly no expert but truly no one is an expert on life, not even Dr. Phil, just please for your own sake do not try and tell him that yourself.
I lived in a small town called Comanche, Texas from the time I was less than a year old till the day I left for college in 2008. I had dreams that were crushed, loved ones lost, and hearts broken as everyone one has, or will have, happen in their life. As a 23 year old, I am far from knowing all there is to know and I guarantee five, ten, and every year there on after I will have things to add to this list, but for now these are the things I have learned.
Dreams Are What Happen When You Sleep
The saying “in your dreams,” is not simply a figure of speech, this saying came about because dreams are not a reality. I do not say this to sound harsh or to kill spirits, no, in fact I say it to drive those who have aspirations to push even harder. I choose to say the word aspirations because this implies a goal that one is working towards, where as a dream carries a connotation of unattainability. This is not to say that dreams are not necessary because a dream is the precursor of one’s aspirations.
The reason so many people have their ‘dreams’ crushed is because they never took the steps to move these ‘dreams’ from the pixie dust ideas they created in their head to realistic goals. There is nothing wrong with dreaming, but the problem comes when that is all one does. Do not become a dreamer. Become a doer. If you know that your so called dreams are more than the stories that flitter about your brain while you sleep, stop calling them dreams, turn them into aspirations and make them your reality.
It was my sophomore year in college when I first realized I was a dreamer not a doer, and more importantly I realized I no longer wanted to only dream. I, for years, had this dream to travel the world, and furthermore, play a small part in changing it for the better. During the fall of 2009 I saw an article on an organization that was looking for volunteers to help teach English to refugee children from war torn countries all over the world. I took a leap and sent in my application, months of preparation, interviews, and fundraising later I found myself standing in a classroom over 10,000 miles away from home in Perth, Australia.
At the age of 20 years old, I was living on my own in a foreign country for three months. Scary? Sure the first couple weeks were an adjustment, but after that, my life began to change forever. I came home at the end of that summer a different person. I do not think it was anything noticeable from the outside, but inside I knew I was capable of literally anything I could think of doing, and from there on out I never looked back.
College is More than Frat Parties and Final Exams
For those that are considering college lets first get the biggest myth about college life out of the way; what you see on TV and movies is about a tenth of what college life is truly about. Sure, there are parties and there are certainly final exams that make you test your body’s capacity for Mountain Dew intake, but it is everything else that happens in those four years that make up a true college experience.
To me that is the best way to describe college is that it is an experience. Do you learn? Definitely. Do you have fun? Of course. Will you at times want to cry in a corner from the sheer lack of sleep and/or the stress of balancing work, life, and school all at the same time? Without a doubt. BUT, along with all of this comes the true experience of college; it’s the people you meet, the memories you make, and the process of finally realizing who you truly are and who you want to be.
I came from a small town of approximately 4,000 people, where I graduated high school in 2008 with a class of 76. I eventually ended up at Texas Tech University that currently has an enrollment of approximately 33,000 students of which is over eight times the size of my hometown. I loved growing up in a small town but I do think that for me personally, experiencing life at a university the size of Texas Tech was important to my growth overall.
The pride that comes from attending a university this size is undeniable. I will always be proud to be a Red Raider and I will always try and stand by the values Texas Tech passes on to each student. I was exposed to different people, different lifestyles, and different viewpoints on all sorts of topics. This does not mean I changed my personal morals or beliefs but it helped me grow simply from being exposed to how others see the world.
During my time as an undergraduate I made new friends, traveled the world, and discovered things about myself that have far greater meaning than anything I read in a textbook. Without a doubt I am proud of my degree and I believe my education from Texas Tech prepared me for my current graduate studies as well as a future career, but it is the overall experience that I will cherish forever. Not the parties, and certainly not the final exams.
Being Good at Something Does Not Necessarily Mean It Should Be Your Career
In a day and age where groundbreaking innovations seem to come out everyday, it is easy to get carried away by the notion that you need to become the next great thing. In theory, this is not all together a bad notion to have, but it can lead people to choose careers they will eventually grow to hate. Whether it is during college or other after high school work, everyone is trying to answer the same question? What do I want to be when I grow up? Or more specifically, what should I be when I grow up?
The days of it being acceptable to want to be a princess or superhero are over. The trick is figuring out just what that career is going to be. What are you good at? It’s not quite as simple as some advisors like to make it seem, just because you enjoy math it does not mean you have to be an accountant nor does the fact you enjoy science mean you have to become the next Bill Nye. There is a distinct difference between what you like to do and what you are good at, and neither should be the sole basis for choosing a career.
I learned the hard way that just because you are good at something, or just because you enjoy something, it does not mean this should be your career. I changed my major a couple times throughout undergrad and I thought about changing it many more times than that. What I struggled with was that I was fixated on finding something I was good at, something I knew I could be successful doing. Sure this is an important factor in choosing a career. I for one do not want any potential future doctors out there who are not truly good at what they do, but it is not the only factor to consider.
Ironically enough, I did not break this myth until after I had already graduated from Texas Tech with a B.S. in Exercise Sports Science. I was sitting in a graduate school class in the fall of 2012 watching a documentary on the always-intriguing Arnold Schwarzenegger, when I had an epigone of sorts. Following the video we had a class discussion on what factors played into the successes Schwarzenegger has achieved over his lifetime. The man was extremely driven and that was evident very early on in life, as he went to great lengths to achieve his goal of becoming a body builder, including sneaking out of military camps to compete in competitions.
What we finally realized was that the key to his success was not his drive, or even his extreme talents for bodybuilding; it was the combination of both of these aspects that made him so great. He not only loved bodybuilding, he had the body structure, work habits, muscle mass, and drive to become one of the best there ever was.
It was in this moment that I decided to add a second masters degree to my curriculum. The next day I emailed the director of the mass communications at Texas Tech and asked about applying to the graduate program for the following semester. I have always loved sports and I have always had a passion and talent for writing, but it was not until that moment in class that I realized what my true career path should be.
A year later, I am well on my way to completing both a masters in sports psychology and sports media, and I know that without a doubt I have found the perfect career for me. It is for that reason that whenever people ask how I decided what I wanted to do for a career, how I decided to be a sports journalist? I will always answer proudly, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Moral of the story is, there are many things that would make your life much easier over the next few years if you knew them. Problem is, I nor anyone else, can tell you what those things are. They are different for each of us, and more importantly the point at which we realize them is different for everyone.
What I can tell you is exactly what I said above; Do not become a dreamer, become a doer. College is more than what you see on TV, if you let it, it will change you for the better in more ways than one. And lastly, identify your Arnold Schwarzenegger—what do you have both a passion and a talent for?
I honestly wish there was more I could tell you, I wish I could give you a book of cheat codes that would make the next part of your life pass with ease, but I can’t. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way, but the truth of the matter is life is all the more satisfying when you conquer the toughest parts sans all cheats.
Lastly, I will leave you with this: You are the future of this nation, this world. Are you going to be a generation that pulls us down, or one that pushes us forward? For selfish reasons I hope you choose the latter. ☺