Earlier this week while my students were working on their final projects, I asked a senior what she was planning on doing after graduation.  She explained that she was going to an acting/comedy school.  Then she instantly began justifying herself, as if her decision was somehow wrong.

When I asked her why she was doing that, she paused a moment before explaining that quite a few people had made her feel like this decision wasn’t quite good enough; she’s smart, so others feel she should be going to a traditional college program.  However, she is funny, a natural performer and clearly excited about this program.

At the end of class, she stopped to say thanks for not telling her what she should be doing.  After my struggle over the past few years to figure out what I want to do when I grow up, I would never in a million years tell her what she should be doing.

How would I know?

I just figured out what I want to do, and I’m in my forties!  I envy her.  She’s 18 and has a clear vision for her future; she’s not succumbing to pressures to get a “real” education and find a “real” job.

I’ve been thinking of this conversation for the past two days.

We put so much pressure on kids to go to college, get a job, and follow a “traditional” path, whatever that is.  But I think instead, we should pressure them to find their passion, explore their strengths, and confidently reject everyone else’s “you should” comments.  Lewis Carroll wrote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”  Most of us need to try out lots of roads to figure out our there, but some know early on.

Let’s let them go there, guilt free, and encourage the others to try out as many roads as they possibly can.