Updated: Mar 18, 2019
There are so many mistakes young adults make when it comes to career and money. I know I made them, and I see other young adults making them every single day. Many times, these are mistakes due to peer pressure from family, friends, or ‘mentors’ who honestly think they’re trying to help. However, when they push their loved one into going to a four-year college or settling down in a stable career, they may actually be keeping them from finding what truly makes them happy. If you’re in that place in your life where you have all your options open (this usually happens in your late teen years), I want you to really listen to what I have to say in this blog. Retaining flexibility and having multiple experiences are your best friends at this stage of life and I’m about to tell you why.
Making Big Decisions Too Early Limits Flexibility
So say you go the ‘traditional’ route your parents are encouraging you to and you enroll in that 4-year university. You’re not really sure what you want to do, but you’ve always been good at math, so you pursue accounting. Four years later, you have $100,000 in student loans to pay back and you feel you don’t have any choice but to take that job at a big accounting firm so you can start paying your bills. What happens when you realize in six months that you hate being an accountant and you kind of wish you would have went into photography instead because taking pictures of nature fills you with joy?
If you’re like most young people, you won’t do anything about it. You’ll keep on working as an accountant so you can pay your bills and buy that house and marry that girl while your dreams get put on the back burner, usually forever. I’m not trying to depress you here, just telling you how it usually goes for most of those who find themselves on this path.
Delaying Those Decisions Leads to Options and Value
Now let’s say you bucked tradition and decided to hold off on going to the university for a few years. Instead, you take a few community college classes (one of them in photography), travel to some cool places (where you take a lot of pictures), and start building a portfolio of your work. Guess what happens in two years? You can still go to that college if you want to, but now you know a whole lot better what interests you. Even if you do decide to pursue the accounting degree, you now also have the skills and experience necessary for a side gig or another career in photography. See what happened there? Not only did you give yourself a chance to find out what you love, but you also added to your value by learning and practicing a new skill.
Sure, you might have still gotten into photography at some point in your life, but it’s a lot less likely since ‘adulting’ would have taken over. I know this from experience! I’m in my 50’s and am now just starting to realize how much I love teaching. If I would have had more experiences when I was a young adult, I would have been able to incorporate this a lot sooner into my career and been able to enjoy it for many more years. And I’m one of the lucky ones who found a way to weave this into my ‘real job’. So many others never find a way to recapture their passions, especially as they reach middle age and beyond.
Listen, I know it’s tough. You have your parents pushing you to find stability, your friends encouraging you to ‘grow up’ (like they supposedly have) and society making you feel like you’re not a contributing adult unless you’re working 8 to 5 every day. But I’m encouraging you to open your mind, follow your heart, and invest in as many experiences as you can before you ‘settle down’. There’s always time for that in the future, and focusing on experiences now can only lead you to greater happiness down the road.
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