I have two daughters on the cusp of milestone moments in their lives.
One is most likely heading out on her own this fall to college at North Dakota State University.
Right now, she’s a bundle of nerves who graduated from high school and Mesabi Range in 2018 but decided to spend a year making money before heading onto the next phase of her life.
She applied to three different universities, two of which she was determined to attend. Her third choice, NDSU was a last-minute swerve, and acceptance there kickstarted the process for real.
My other daughter is a junior in high school, but she has been talking about her future and studying colleges and careers for too many years now.
She must think about it every day.
Neither one is anything like I was at their age and that’s probably a good thing.
What I try to remind them is that while these decisions seem monumental in the moment, life ebbs and flows in a mostly uncontrollable way so even the best laid plans sometimes go skidding off the tracks.
And that’s okay too. Sometimes it’s good to play it loose and let the winds of change blow you around a bit. I like to believe we all find what we are looking for eventually – even if we don’t know what that is when the journey begins.
I chose my college based on where my girlfriend at the time was going to school and my major because a counselor tracked me down my fourth year at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and informed me I had to have one and that I couldn’t stay in college forever.
I asked which subject I had the most credits in picked that one.
Two months out of college I landed my first paying gig in the newspaper business almost by accident – staff writer at the Daily Tribune in Hibbing.
At the time I wasn’t looking for a reporter gig I was just looking to make a buck doing something easy so when I saw an ad looking for an outdoors columnist to write one story a week I figured, no problem.
During my interview with the managing editor – a squirrely little man who refused to make eye contact for most of the one-sided discussion – told me that while he was initially looking for a columnist an intern position had opened up and if I was interested the job was mine.
I took the job and a couple weeks later he called me into his office and told me a full-time slot was available.
Forty hours a week at a whopping $10 an hour seemed like a good deal back then, so I said sure.
Prior to that moment I was still living mostly in Duluth.
The only real plan I had – a loose sketch at best – was to head south to the Twin Cities and away from the Iron Range.
But getting there at that time proved to be a difficult task for a guy who had wasted his five years of college on a liberal arts degree and was banking on his two years of college newspaper work to land him a six-figure salary.
I had sent out dozens of resumes and writing samples to public relations firms and corporations in the big city that summer but only snagged two interviews and a bunch of rejection letters.
With my lease in Duluth coming to an end and no better prospects in sight I took the job in Hibbing, but it was becoming more obvious by the minute that my lack of a solid plan for the future was coming back to haunt me.
And once I went full-time it didn’t take long for me to figure out that I hated my job, my editor, and, in particular, my work week which consisted of two non-consecutive days off – Wednesday and Sunday.
It drove me nuts.
I remember whining about it to a lady friend I was hanging around with at the time who turned to me and said, “welcome to the real world. That’s just the way it is.”
Two things happened in that moment: I realized that she was an idiot and I vowed to one day prove her wrong.
In my mind, that was the furthest place from the world I wanted to live in. My perfect life was based on a quote from Lloyd Dobler, the fictional character played by John Cusack from the classic 1989 film from director Cameron Crowe, “Say Anything.”
For those who have never seen the movie, it’s the story of Dobler, a highschool senior, who makes it his mission to date the school valedictorian Diane Court – a girl who is so far out of his league and so unlike Dobler that it seems like an impossible task.
My life’s mission was set in motion by something he said when asked by his girlfriend’s father what his plans were for after high school.
Dobler replied: “A career? I’ve thought about this quite a bit sir and I would have to say considering what’s waiting out there for me, I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed or buy anything sold or processed or repair anything sold, bought or processed as a career. I don’t want to do that. My father’s in the army. He wants me to join, but I can’t work for that corporation, so what I’ve been doing lately is kick-boxing, which is a new sport. As far as career longevity, I don’t really know. I can’t figure it all out tonight, sir, so I’m just going to hang with your daughter.”
Not a bad plan if you ask me.