If You See The Future Ask It If I'm There

If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up while I was in the 4th grade, I would’ve answered, “truck driver”. I had no intentions on ever becoming a truck driver, but at nine-years-old, it was the first thing to come to mind. Sure, deep down I knew that I wanted to be the starting point guard for the Lakers in the year 2000, but I had yet to reach five feet so that dream was deferred. It wasn’t until two years later that I received a clue about what I wanted to spend my life doing. It came in the form of my 6th grade teacher Ms. Blowe telling me that I had a way with words and I should seriously consider some form of writing in my future. In the years to come, my many of my English teachers would tell me the same thing, so I figured they had to know what they were talking about. If writing didn’t work out, I could become an English teacher, in the worst case. Fast forward twenty years and here I am working helping steer a couple hundred teenagers towards their future and writing for fun. Yes, I’m still trying to determine what I want to be when I grow up.

Luckily, my gifts started to present themselves in time enough for me to improve upon them, but what about those still trying to discover what they’re good at? How about all of those students stumbling through school, ignored by teachers, overlooked by counselors, with little interest in the future? What hopes and dreams will come to them? What goals will they work towards? How will they feed themselves when mommy decides the rainbow is enuf? The job market is tough enough for those with advanced degrees, so it’s almost non-existent for those that were barely given their high school diplomas, but many young folks aren’t thinking that far ahead.

Sitting on the curb looking at the stars above
Talking about what we wanna be when we grow up
I said what you wanna be, she said “Alive”
Made me think for a minute, then looked in her eyes...
                                               Andre 3000 "The Art of Storytelling Pt.1"
That’s the reality for many young folks these days, they just want to make it to adulthood, what happens when they get there is a mystery Walter Mosley can’t write an ending to. Hard work is too hard and school pays no immediate dividends. Plus Reality TV is making millionaires out of folks without talent creating a false sense of accomplishment and sowing the seeds of displaced inspiration. Yeah, you can use Barack Obama as the model for hope, but what your kids see daily is not Barack. They see you struggling, your neighbors out of work and their teachers look nothing like them, that’s the picture of motivation.

Some persist, set goals, go to college, begin careers, start families and lead successful lives. Many more stall, set unrealistic goals based on a non-existent skill set and set themselves up for failure, disappointment and resentment towards everyone. Even the military is becoming less of an option for youth these days, as the different branches of the Armed Forces have raised the standards associated with examinations and psychological assessments required for entrance, removing an alternative for those that may have been down to their final option. What happens then? What’s the response aside from mothers crying and more babies being born than we can feed? The prisons are packed with unfulfilled potential and people not prepared for the future, but they’re discharging graduates of the worst school back into an unsuspecting world, this time with a new set of skills and goals.

But these kids are beyond scared straight and though no one wants to be a criminal when they grow up, circumstances and bad decisions lead us to places we’ve never imagined ourselves and for many, there is no way out once in. I wonder if I took a career assessment exam all those many years ago, where would it have steered me towards? My aptitude tests proved I had the ability, but didn’t give me any direction. What if your kid was tested for a direction and then worked with to development the aptitude? It’s possible that the course of a few lives may be altered and untapped potential realized, but to accomplish this, we have to get involved in the educational process of our children. Parents you have to start asking questions, attending conferences with teachers, exposing your children to a multitude of career possibilities and finding out what it is they’re good at. Trust me, it goes a long way in discovering a passion for something and working to develop the skills needed in realizing that passion.

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