Part 1 of a 4-part series: high school
I am only in my 30s so I can only lay claim to a limited amount of wisdom. However, when I have reflected on my life thus far it seems that the best decisions I have made were the times when I chose my own path, one that was different than what was expected. Those decisions have been been God's way of directing me to the life He has for me.
My academic life
I have always been an excellent student. My parents were not particularly hard on me in this regard. Indeed, they didn't need to be as I was seemingly born a self-motivated person. I was also lucky enough to have reading come easily to me which smooths the way for academic success.
College prep by default
By high school I was following the standard "college prep" plan. This meant I was placed in advanced math and science courses, more due to previous academic success than to real giftedness. In fact, the math class was a real struggle for me. All around me students would whip through the night's homework and spend the last minutes of class breezily chatting. I, on the other hand, would be sweating through the first problem and faced at least an hour of effort that evening.
Choosing the Career Center
My guidance counselor took me seriously when I claimed I wanted to be a graphic designer and steered me to my local career and tech center. You probably have one where you live too. Mine had a 2-year program in graphic design and printing that she suggested I tour.
Generally, tech centers are not for students who plan to go to college. In fact, they can be excellent alternatives who would rather learn a trade and get right to work. I hold them in the highest regard, especially considering I am alumni. In my high-achieving suburban high school the career center was definitely not the standard option. I can still remember the blatant sneer of disgust from a fellow student when he found out my plans to attend.
Attending also meant that I devoted a full 50% of my schedule to the career center. For me this meant I no longer took math or science classes. I had enough credits to graduate but this most definitely wasn't the traditional schedule for a student like me.
Out of my element
Day one was a culture shock for me. Years later when I returned for a visit, one of my teachers reported that I told her "I am not sure if I coming back." I don't remember saying that but it goes to show how out of my element I felt. Until this point, I had only gone to school with people who looked like me and lived like me. Suddenly I was in class with people who had vastly different life experiences and perspectives (and clothes and hairstyles and even languages!). I didn't know it then, but this was God planting a seed in my heart to love and appreciate racial diversity and desire unity.
What did I learn?
First, I got a great overview of the field of graphic design and confirmed that it was my desired career path. I learned technical information about the printing process (and even ran a small press) and preparing files. I also marched off to college with what was the equivalent of my freshman year when it came to learning various graphic design software programs.
But more importantly, I had experienced what it was like to make the best decision instead of the expected decision. I had bravely gone to a new and unexpected place and discovered that it was right where I belonged.
When have you gone sideways in life?
Think back to high school and decisions you might have made to end something or begin something. How did those decisions shape you today?