I was home schooled all the way up until high school, where I went to a public school and graduated with OK grades. I was fairly popular, and I was happy…for a teenager. I got my first job at the age of sixteen. I kept it for a whole three months before I quit. I'm currently going to a community college.
I have always had the idea that I would be rich and successful in whatever I did. Now that I'm out of high school and on my way towards adulthood, I'm looking ahead and trying to figure what I'm going to do with my life. I don't even know if college is really for me or not. I know that there are a lot of benefits that come from going to college - I just lack the motivation to do any more schoolwork. I realize that there's more than just my future involved in the choices I make now. If I choose to go to college and I end up with a successful career, than chances are that my children will have a better future. So I lack the motivation to get anywhere in life and yet I see myself getting far in life. Is this the wrong idea to have?
There are certainly plenty of people who get far in life without going to college. And my guess is that if you go to college right now when you are feeling so unmotivated simply because you think it's the "right" way to go about things, you won't apply yourself and get as much out of the experience as you would if you chose to go because it really felt right and you were eager to plunge in and get all that you can from the experience.
I wouldn't suggest doing nothing, though. There's a lot to be said for real world experience, and trying various jobs might help you to figure out what it is that want to do in the long run. Think about things that you really enjoy doing and whether there's a way to make a living doing them. Is there a way to get involved now, even if it means an unpaid internship or low paying job, to see what it's really like on a day to day basis to work in the areas that you are interested in? Without knowing what your interested in, it's hard to make suggestions, but there are also opportunities like joining the Peace Corps that can help you to see the world and gain experiences you might otherwise never have while helping people in less developed countries. It may be that doing something else for just a year or two will allow you to recharge your battery and gain clarity about your future direction so that you feel ready for college. It may be that it will be years before you feel ready for college. Or perhaps you will be one of those people who is successful in their career of choice without the benefits of a college education and degree.
It might help to recognize that this is not your only opportunity to go to college. Many colleges and universities make it easy for older students who are juggling work and families to attend college by offering classes at night, on weekends, and even correspondence classes through the Internet that allow you to "attend" lectures and study whenever it is most convenient for you. An increasing proportion of college students are not 18-22 year old, but rather are in their later twenties, 30s, 40s, 50s, and up . . . and professors report that the non-traditional older students are the ones who are motivated to work hard and get as much from the experience as they can. So please don't feel that your future career and future children are doomed to suffer if you don't go to college right this minute!
It can be very stressful to be struggling with important life decisions, and you sound overwhelmed and depressed. You don't mention finances or whether your family expects you to go to college now, but it can be difficult and lonely to choose a path that's far from what everyone else is doing and expects of you. Seeing a therapist or counselor would provide you with additional support as you sort through your options and next steps. Counseling will also help to address any underlying depression, which is extremely important since it is hard to think clearly and make decisions when depression is robbing you of your motivation and hope.
Good luck, Skipper.
Susan Maroto, LCSW
This question has been answered by Susan Maroto. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker working out of Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She uses an eclectic approach to holistic healing, mind-body relationships, life transitions, depression, and anxiety.
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