A big part of my job is encouraging students to explore options for their future education and career. So when I receive an email with the subject line – hoping to meet to decide future – it’s not entirely out of the ordinary. When I really stop to think about it, however, it strikes me as entirely awesome and daunting all at the same time. Yesterday, I sat down with one of our scholars having joked prior to our meeting that we could use our time together to “figure out her life.” You know, no big.
But it is BIG. And huge and scary and daunting and exciting and stressful when you’re actually in it. When you are immersed in exploring options for your future. When you are putting yourself “out there” and applying to things (programs, jobs, fellowships, whatever) and not necessarily getting the answer that you think you should be getting. Maybe things are coming up as a “no go.” Maybe there doesn’t seem to be many options in relation to the kinds of interests and dreams that you have at this moment. Maybe things aren’t happening quick enough so that you are able to sit back and enjoy that last semester of undergrad knowing exactly what your next steps will be. How great if we could all have our lives all wrapped up in a nice little bow? Decide future: check. Figure out life: check.
We have scholars at various points in the process. New scholars are just starting to develop research projects and relationships with their faculty research mentors. They are “trying on” this idea of becoming a researcher to see if it might be something they want to pursue as part of their future. Some scholars have fully funded grad offers on the table (some of which have already accepted) and they are feeling pretty grand. Some are still waiting to hear and some are still getting on planes and “shining their brightest” in the hopes of securing an offer they believe to be the best choice for them. For right now, that is. The thing is, that decision or want or dream could look totally different a year or even a month from now.
My point is that we all have control in shaping our lives only as far as we put our energy out into the universe (which means we work our ass off and take advantage of opportunities that come our way) and trust that our good intentions will pay off. I constantly have to stop myself from wanting to “fix” or “change” situations that come upon my students. Truth be told, I will never stop wishing I had that magic wand. But what I keep reminding myself is that the support I can offer them is being an active listener, being with them in their present reality and simply meeting them where they are at. That’s hard to do a lot of the time! I have faith, though, that this kind of support will help carry them through to the next achievement or challenge or mid-course correction they make in their journey. I also find myself encouraging my students to HAVE FAITH that they are exactly where they need to be in the journey itself.
I just came upon a quote from a fellow coaching friend, Sandi Faviell Amorim, and she says, “Don’t waste your time looking for the ‘right’ path … paths are made by walking.” I think that about sums it up quite beautifully. We will all find our way if we just keep on walking.
This post makes me think about our McNair experience shared last summer – feel free to take a look!