If there's one thing I've always told my two boys it's that 'I don't mind what you do when you leave school, as long as you're happy'. Which as we all know is the important thing. However what I didn't realise until recently was that what I really thought was 'I don't mind what you do when you leave school, as long as you're happy. But ideally it would be great if you went to university because it sounds nice and everyone will know how clever my children are'. Fortunately for me, obliging young chaps that they are, that was the plan for both of them. Until recently, that is. And as it turns out, I don't mind at all.
Years ago I remember seeing a plaque on a lady's wall which said 'For things to change, first I must change'. As I mentioned in a recent post, we have been undergoing some major changes around here and there are still bigger ones in the pipeline. I try not to write too much about my boys these days; as far as I'm concerned they are both adults with their own lives and they don't really need Mumsie broadcasting their every move to all and sundry. But I am going to write about them today because I am proud of them both for making brave changes and jumping into the unknown.
Liam you may remember, went away to uni half way down the country at the start of 2015. He quickly settled in to uni and whilst I gave up all hope of being able to teach him to cook, he still managed to survive. He loved Wellington, loved his friends and as his second year commenced he loved his new flat too. There was just one major thing he didn't love any more - his degree. Whilst the first year was really interesting and enjoyable, the second year was far from what he expected. Every time he came home for a visit he confessed to feeling more and more disillusioned with his course and he wasn't the only one. Being the first bunch of under graduates in a brand new degree, Liam and his fellow students were, for want of a better expression, guinea pigs and as the second year progressed, more and more of them were becoming frustrated at the lack of direction.
Despite various meetings, complaints from parents and several students already dropping out, by the time they reached half way through the year, they were actually learning more teaching themselves on YouTube than they were in class. With just one more year to go, Liam was far from confident about the likelihood of being able to find work in his chosen field once he had graduated. 'How on earth will we be able to get a job in such an advanced field? We haven't learned anything all year!' Each term was the same and he would try and hang on through the next, hoping that things would improve but to no avail. The only thing that was keeping him there was his love of Wellington and the people around him and the fact that, already now half way through, he didn't want to drop out.
A couple of months ago he came back for a visit and we had a day out together in Hamilton. Over a huge plate of wedges with all the works, he once again started to tell me how he just didn't know what to do. He didn't want to give up but the fact of the matter was, he just wasn't happy. The second year of his course was still proving to be a huge letdown and once again he was feeling far from confident about his job prospects if he did see it through. Being the first bunch of graduates in a new degree, it wasn't as though they had the reassurance of seeing where previous students before them had ended up in life and where their qualifications had taken them.
I could see his dilemma and didn't envy the poor lad at all but was struggling to know what to say for fear of steering him in the wrong direction. Then out of the blue a middle aged man, possibly older, approached our table, along with his wife. I had seen them sitting over the other side of the cafe. 'Hi, I hope you don't think this is too weird! I'm a pastor and I have received a message for the young fella here. I didn't want to leave without giving it to you. Do you mind if I share it?' 'Umm, no?' Liam and I looked at each other nervously. 'Here we go', I thought. 'We're about to get a sermon in the middle of the bloody cafe!' But what he said next surprised the heck of us both. 'You are struggling with some big decisions', he said to Liam. 'You have had a disappointment and you don't know what to do or which path to take. Don't be scared to go after what you want. Do what you need to do to be happy. Everything will be OK, in fact everything will be great!'
Liam and I were absolutely gobsmacked. How on earth could this guy possibly know what was on his mind? We had barely even started our conversation? 'Um, OK, thank you!' we said, still lost for words. No sooner had the couple left the cafe than we wanted to run out and find them to ask him more, but by the time his words had sunk in they had already driven off. A few days after that, Liam called me to say he had made the decision to leave uni. 'No way am I forking out another $4,000 for another term of teaching myself on YouTube, I can do that for free!' he said. I couldn't argue with that logic; in fact I was proud of him for seeing it that way and saving himself such a large amount on his student loan. Besides, now I got to have my eldest boy back and closer to home! Maybe I could finally give him some cooking lessons!
Liam wasn't the only one struggling with big decisions. For a long time now Ali had his future planned out. He was going to leave school at the end of the year and then go to uni to do a Psychology degree. His heart was so set on it he had already made the decision to commit to six years of study in order to get his Masters. The only decision he really had to make was which university to go to. There was just one thing standing in his way - Ali detested school. Academic he most certainly was, to the extent he could be anything he wanted - but a conformist he definitely wasn't. Every day his tolerance as a young man still confined in a child's environment grew less and less and he realised he couldn't wait to achieve his independence. He wanted to join the adult world and earn his own money now. Seeing my boy as miserable as he was, no way was I going to talk him out of it. He left school at the end of last term and hasn't looked back.
So now both my boys are out there in the big wide world! Liam (the most un-morning person I have ever met, if there is such a word) is getting up at 4am every morning and driving to the city, where he works from 6am until 6pm and then drives home again. He's been so busy I don't even exactly know what he's doing yet! In typical Liam fashion he just says 'Oh, some labour thing'. He doesn't really care what he does, he's just saving up to go travelling. Ali, keen to learn a trade has been doing all sorts from plastering to building before settling on being a painter. It always makes me smile to see him come home covered in plaster and goodness knows what. I'm really proud of them for being strong enough to make changes and doing what they needed to in order to be happy. I think a lot of adults could learn from that - me included - and I have, But that's a whole other blog!