Did you know what you wanted to do with your life when you were 16? Or do you know what you want to do with your life now? Perhaps you are one of that special breed who was born knowing what career they wanted, whose first word was ‘accountancy’ or ‘fast-moving consumer goods’. Or perhaps you are like me and, despite stumbling into your mid-Forties, you still have no real clue what you are doing – or even plan to do – with your life.
Career has never been to the forefront of my mind, what with so many other important issues to ponder on, such as which member of the Avengers I might be, or what the cut off age for skinny jeans is (it’s 26, BTW). For my daughter however, career is the topic of the moment, as she is coming to the end of transition year, and after a year of putting most of her brain into powersave mode, she now has to try and figure out what subjects she chooses and, ultimately, what she is going to do with her life. Apparently she already has some ideas, as she has made her choices without seeking my advice, something that came to light when I found myself wandering around her parent teacher meeting like someone playing an especially dull game of Pokemon Go.
Her teachers were largely positive – she is doing well, despite her health woes and associated poor attendance. Her memory is also affected by her lupus, so while I would never want her to be defined by the condition, or to feel it is holding her back, her subject choices will need to be guided by these difficult realities. The teachers were open and honest about her selections, telling me that both chemistry and biology require hard work, excellent attendance, a photographic memory and a deep understanding of the subject matter. At this point the alarm bells inside my head started to ring, as I envisioned two years of test tubes, complex equations and all the other accoutrements of a field that I, like many liberal arts graduates, do not understand. It’s that fear that she has chosen something that I cannot help her with, that is beyond my grasp, and perhaps most of all, that she might not have an innate ability towards. This last one is really more like a weird biological superstition than an actual logical fear, and it’s one that perhaps has more to do with ego than anything – the notion that I have certain gifts, and ergo, my kids will have those same gifts. But this process of identifying aspects of your child and attributing them to yourself or your spouse, depending on whether they are positive or not, is hard to fight. Stubbornness? Not from me, no way no how. Sense of humour? That’s from me, of course, sher amn’t I a laugh a minute. And so it goes with school, where I have assumed she will be good at the things I am good at, but that prophecy has yet to be fulfilled as she has almost failed English several times and has dropped art for the Leaving, whilst embracing subjects I either dropped or failed when I sat the State exams back in the Paleolithic era. But her decision is her decision and no matter how I tried to steer her from this path, she is dead-set in her choices, and that stubborn streak that I pretend she gets from her mother probably mean she won’t change her mind no matter how difficult the subjects turn out to be. For me, it just means a return to calculators, latin, and the gnashing of teeth.