I’m just going to come right out and tell you, whether you’re ready or not.
The first dirty secret of high school is: seniors are the most terrified of any of the grade levels.
We think of freshman as being the most scared because they are small and might get stepped on or accidentally put in a backpack. And they don’t know many people yet, and they don’t know the building, and they don’t know the teachers or the inside jokes. Or which kids are nice and which are only acting nice.
But the reality is that seniors are the most terrified of any of the grades, and the reason is: the senior question. You know the question. It’s the one that seniors get asked every single day of their final year of high school.
“So… what are you going to do next year?”
It is a generic, default, thoughtless question. Even though the people asking it are mean well and likely genuinely care about the student, there are probably other, more useful ways to address the situation and decisions that seniors face.
It is a reasonable question, considering the circumstances. It is similar to asking a pregnant woman when she is due.
It is a good question. It is important to think about goals and what changes you want to make and how you will face surprise changes.
But it is a question that no one can answer. Even the person asking it.
Statistics tell us that only 3% of the population make goals. In other words, 97% of people never set goals. Based on the numbers (and observation), it is not a stretch to say that no one makes goals.
None of the adults asking the question would be able to answer it, except that they can say, “The exact same thing I’m doing today.”
But seniors don’t get to say that… for the first time in their lives. A significant life change has been forced upon them, and that would cause each of us great trepidation.
The question induces fear. A deep, abiding fear of the future. Peering into the unknown, unformed future, or casting our hopes into it, only echoes back uncertainty. As noted, few of us (except seniors) ever try to gaze and plan into the future. Fear of the future is a common, and deep, fear.
The Senior Question often causes anxiety and is often a catalyst to depression. It seeps and paralyzes like a neurotoxin from a poisonous bite—barely noticed at first, but slowly spreading until paralysis and panic set in.
Sure, there is a typical answer: “Go to college.” This is answer that is shoved upon the student. It is a good solution. But it is not the answer for everyone. And it is an answer that does not resolve the question, and everyone knows this. It makes students suddenly aware that there is a follow-up question: “So, what are you going to do after college?” The fear, paralysis, and panic are prolonged.
So, what is the answer to the senior question? What is the solution to the problem?
Two things of equal importance. And both are of immeasurable importance.
First, the Zig Ziglar goal-setting system. This should be required work for all students. And all people who are already out of school.
Second, Joseph Campbell’s immortal statement: “Follow Your Bliss”, which I suggest is the greatest thing ever spoken or written.
“Follow your bliss” means, find what it is that brings you rapture and then keep doing it. It does not mean: do what is easy. Because finding the thing that brings you rapture will require tremendous work (or luck). And staying with it will require tremendous work. And following it will, at times, be scary.
What Campbell means is, find what brings you rapture and work at it and go where it takes you, wherever that may be. You will not know where it leads when you begin. Even if you think you do. Even if you have a plan mapped out in your head or on paper. Twists and turns and surprises are how life works; how all great journeys work.
Here is an example: Joseph Campbell loved mythology, and it lead him into teaching and writing books and changing the world. How many people can you think of that have at least seven documentary about their life, one of which is 10 hours long?
But a love of mythology led George Lucas into filmmaking. And it might lead someone else into painting. And another person into writing novels.
“So, what are you doing next year?”
“Who knows. But now I’m working through the Zig Ziglar goal-setting system and paying attention to what brings me bliss, happiness, delight, rapture.”
The first dirty secret of high school, and the solutions to the question and it’s problems, have been exposed. Tomorrow… the second dirty secret of high school.