It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
I was a senior in high school and working on writing my college applications. Back in the day, everything was done on a typewriter or hand written. It was a long process and my parents’ dining room table became a makeshift office.
One of our toilets had backed up and my dad called a local plumber. A nice gentleman came to the house but if I’m being honest, his jeans were way too baggy. While he was looking at the toilet in my bathroom, he bent over and his butt crack was smiling right at me as I walked by.
I giggled and snickered and my father heard me telling my mom how funny it was considering it was a plumber.
Minutes later my dad called me into the front room.
He pointed out our front window to a very nice looking Cadillac sitting in front of our house.
“You see that car”, he told me “that’s a new Cadillac. You know whose Cadillac that is? That’s the plumbers. You know who has never had a new Cadillac? Me.”
“Do you know why I have never had a new Cadillac Kelly? Because I can’t afford one (pointing at the messy table with all my papers). But do you know who can afford one? The plumber. Don’t ever laugh at anyone’s profession and don’t ever look down on someone for doing a job we need. Just because you go to college doesn’t make you successful. There are a whole lot of successful people who never went to college. Never forget that”.
And I never have.
Our world relies on auto mechanics, carpenters, air traffic controllers, truck drivers, welders and electricians. And Lord knows when we need a plumber, we are so grateful for them. We also need soldiers, UPS drivers, chefs, X-ray technicians and firefighters.
Imagine our world without hair stylists or dental hygienists. That’s a scary thought.
History is full of movers and shakers who carved their own path—far away from traditional education. Some of these jobs require an associate degree, some trade school, and others specific certifications or apprenticeships.
What’s true is that you don’t need a bachelor’s degree but you do need an education. Trade school is a different version of college- people get certified in their profession. The military is a version of college- they gain important life skills, learn about leadership, teamwork and functioning under stress. Apprenticeships or internships are a different version of college- they gain hands-on experience and learn details and specifics from mentors.
If your child is not excited about the idea of going to 4-year college, don’t pressure them to go immediately after high school. Introduce alternatives. Community college. Trade school. Military. Gap year. Getting a full time job. Let them figure out what works for them. What they decide to do with their life after they are 18 isn’t one size fits all. Our children are all wired differently.
Still have boundaries for them like working, continuing to help out around the house, covering their car and social expenses, and being respectful of the house rules. Laying around watching Netflix all day and not contributing isn’t an option. But don’t expect that they will take the same path you did.
Even if you feel certain that college is the best path for your teen, forcing them into something will only set them up for failure and frustration, and can result in a great loss of time and money.
Be mindful of what’s most important:
They have meaningful relationships.
They live a purposeful life.
They own and handle their responsibilities.
They are happy and enjoy getting out of bed each day.
They know we love them regardless of what they do or don’t do.
They treat others with kindness and respect.
They are good humans.
I am so grateful my dad was wise enough to teach me such an important lesson. It’s a lesson that allows me to appreciate, respect and show gratitude to people in all different professions.
The path to results is different for everyone.