Sunday, April 06, 2014

What becomes of a life?

Perhaps its the intersection of a personal existential crisis and parenting a teenager and preteen that prompts me to articulate the question of what becomes of a life. To borrow from the Jimmy Ruffin hit, What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted:
As I walk this land of broken dreams,
I have visions of many things.

I know I've got to find,
Some kind of peace of mind.
Help me..
Recent events have made me rethink many of the things I thought to be true about my own path. Things that seemed imminent and certain are no longer so. Pathways and passions that were converging seem now nothing more than an oasis. Changing the world and giving a voice to the voiceless just around the corner. It's possible those things are still within reach, but on a different path. Events still to be determined. Complicating the picture is the reinvigoration of a previous passion - one in which I excelled, but with a path just as uncertain. I think, therefore I am, is not enough, but for now it must be.

As I think about where I've been and where I might be going, I can't help but think about my children and what their paths might be. At this point, the world is indeed their oyster. And yet, as I think about how they will soon be off into the world mostly on their own, I can't help but be scared about that prospect. My fear has very little to do with them but more to do with my ability to properly prepare them to be successful.

I suppose the world is changing no more rapidly now than when I was a teenager. My current awareness makes it seem so. I don't recall thinking much about my own future outside of going to medical school and becoming the world's preeminent cardio-thoracic surgeon. So much for the best laid plans of mice and men. I see the same sort of future thinking in my kids and can't help but think it's my responsibility to prepare them for the time when the best laid plans go awry. They are both incredibly talented and intelligent. They both have designs on what they want to do in the world, reserving the right to change their young minds, of course.

I worry most about how to prepare them to take on a world that we can't yet envision. The cost of a college education is becoming such that it is reasonable to question the value. What kind of life can you have coming out of college $100,000 or more in debt with a career that might not pay that much over a several years? What if their talents and passion lead them to career that innovation makes obsolete by the time they start out on their own? How do I help them see the value in their strengths that don't currently fit with their passion? It's easy to say, "do what you love," or "follow your passion," but it seems reasonable that their are limits to that for those who weren't born on 3rd base or didn't win the lottery (we weren't).

Part of my current job involves counseling my team on career development and I've become excellent at it. It's mostly not difficult with people who are already in a career. I have a more difficult time figuring out my own path. I know what I would tell one of my team in my position, but it seems harder for me to do it myself. It's even more difficult for me to figure out what best to tell my children. It's quite scary thinking that I could steer them wrong and cause them to live a less than fulfilling life. I don't know what the answer is. For now I suppose it is best to continue to create an environment where their intellect and talent can shine and hopefully have the foresight to help them find a direction that will be satisfying for them.

I'd love to hear the thoughts of those in a similar position or those who have already been down this path.