Written by: Stacy Stefaniak Luther, PsyD, LPC
Hanging up on the wall of my office are 3 picture frames and next to them on a shelf is another. Across the room is a certificate and a professional license. There are also books, books, and more books. These framed, fancy pieces of paper signify years of education, education that came about from a couple of different factors. The first being that education was never optional in my family. It was an unspoken expectation that after high school, you do something. In order to do that something, finishing high school was mandatory. It didn’t matter what decision was made after high school, options included a 4-year degree, a 2-year degree, a technical certificate or diploma, or a job. The options were endless as long as it was something.
The second factor is a love for absorbing knowledge that I developed early. When I was growing up my dad called me a “sponge” because I would pull in any information I could. The library was one of my favorite places. I got my first library card when I was around 4 or 5 years old. My grandparents were up visiting for the summer and my grandfather accompanied my dad and I to the library. It is one of my earliest memories. Until I left for college I was reading 2-4 books on average each week. When it was cold or rainy, I’d beg my mom to drive me to the library so I could return books and get new ones. I always read Time, Newsweek, and the newspaper when I could get my hands on them. I recall often watching the 5 p.m. news with Dan Rather… and my dad. I had a subscription to National Geographic for awhile and then a magazine about traveling the world. I asked lots of questions. Lots. Always seeking to learn more.
The third factor, as many of my adolescent clients will tell you, is that I had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. And I realize now that that is ok. There is a lot of pressure on our youth to determine their career path before they know who they are. The truth is, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I don’t think my education will ever settle. There’s a bit of unease now. I graduated a year ago with my doctoral degree. As soon as I did, the question became, “Now what?!” I floundered. It took time to adjust. Just about everyone in my life told me to enjoy the break after spending a majority of my adult years as a student. I am, somewhat taking a break in that I am not taking formal classes, but I am still taking on new challenges and learning. Absorbing.
The point of this blog? Well, there are a couple. The first being that there is no rule that says how you have to learn just as there is no rule about what you have to learn. Hands on? Great. A reader? Wonderful. A student? Spectacular. Taking on a new hobby? Fabulous. Seeking out a new career? Go for it! Another point is that you don’t have to know what you want to be when you grow up. What age is grown up? I have no idea. Do you? We continue to develop until the moment we die, so I would argue we continue to grow up until those final heartbeats. There is no longer a career ladder. It’s now considered to be a career web or lattice. Growth isn’t up. It’s horizontal, vertical, and diagonal. We learn from experiences and develop a sense of self while also taking in knowledge about who we are as a person. Things we enjoy and things we do not. We apply these to new experiences, including new careers and new opportunities within our chosen or current career. Another point is that it is ok to challenge yourself. To step outside of that comfortable box and feel like you’re going to vomit, pass out, and hyperventilate. Take a leap. Write a book. Save up for a trip to Bali. Make that phone call. Submit that resume. Network with others. Sign up for that class or training. Take on that new hobby. In the words branded famously by Nike: Just Do It.