When you are not quite 15 years-old you find yourself in the precarious position of knowing you are not a kid and that relatively few adults will treat you with like the smart teenager you know yourself to be.
It is a hard place to be because those same adults speak about you are being old enough to take on more responsibility while placing significant restrictions on the freedom you expect to get from taking them on.
I know from experience on both sides of the aisle what this feels like and it is not all sunshine and rainbows for either party.
When I think back to my teenage years the lack of freedom bothered me but not as much as the realization that there were limits to what my parents and adults in general actually knew.
I can’t pinpoint a date or moment when I figured out that most grownups were just winging it.
There is no single incident that comes to mind, just an awareness that developed over time that the adults weren’t always able to provide satisfactory answers to my questions.
In the interest of disclosure and fairness I’ll grant that teenage arrogance probably colored some of my feelings and that I was probably wrong about a bunch of things I thought I knew.
However the benefit of life experience provides me with the opportunity to say that even though the last statement is true it is also true that most of us grownups are truly winging it.
I suspect that is part of why so many people clamor for self help books and resources they can use to help provide more structure and guidance for how to live their lives.
There is a certain amount of comfort in being given an identity and rules to follow.
When you are a student you know you are going to have to put in a certain number of hours in order to pass your classes and advance to the next level.
But once you are out of school and in the real world that structure sometimes disappears and you find yourself wondering what the heck you are supposed to do.
A few weeks ago my son asked me if I could name the job of the future because he thought if it sounded interesting he might get a head start on preparing for it.
I told him that I thought that was a good idea but that it might be hard to execute because defining the job of the future could be challenging.
He asked me why and I told him if he was looking at what would be valuable and hot when he graduated college it would be very hard to predict because that wouldn’t be for around eight years or so.
“It is hard to say where technology might take us during that time frame or what sort of technological skills will be of paramount importance. It is much easier to break time up into smaller pieces and work with it that way.”
Our conversation continued and I broke down some of the changes I had seen take place during my life time. I am not sure he realized just how significant the changes were until I did that.
When I was a student we didn’t Facetime, Skype or use Google Hangouts to work on group projects. Heck it was far more common to figure out which one of us had a home computer or a typewriter we could use and to identify who the fastest typist was so they could put the project together.
He was also surprised when I explained how some of the positions I have held since my college graduation were for roles that didn’t exist when I was in college.
In 1993 no one talked about social media management or discussed how they and a couple of friends wanted to build apps to sell.
That is part of the joy of being part of Generation X, we are the bridge between the analog world we grew up in and the digital one we now live in.
What Advice Should We Give?
Eventually our conversation turned to a discussion about jobs that will always be of value regardless of technology.
We didn’t cover them all nor did we try to but we did come up with a solid list of Medical professionals, teachers, electricians, plumbers and mechanics.
The conversation reminded me of one I have had with a number of friends about whether there is a parental obligation to try to lead our children to pick careers that are more likely to provide stability and a steady income.
Part of me sees a lot of value in that. I could encourage the kids to become doctors, nurses or physical therapists.
Physical therapy catches my eye for lots of reasons and not just because of an aging population. Who is going to help our soldiers as they age?
There are a lot of vets who are going to continue to need help that extends beyond what the government and VA provide.
But there is something to be said for letting our kids figure out what they want to do and providing some guidance and advice along the way.
Our time in school is quite short but our time in the workplace isn’t, so there is value in trying to find something you enjoy doing or at the very least don’t hate.
What do you think?