The road to discernment | A graduation post

[Originally posted on May 02, 2016 on my website. Copying it over onto this one for archiving.]

As many of you know, I officially graduated from university just under a week ago. It was a great end to my university life and I am looking forward to what’s in store for me from here on in. 

In light of a truly significant and memorable milestone, here’s a little rant about the (my) road to discernment. If you had asked me if I’ve always wanted to work in the Information Technology sector, my answer would be a big, resounding ‘no’. It’s interesting how we end up where we are and I guess this is my reflection on the last 4 years of my life, encompassing both my university life and the first couple of years of my career.

I do hope I get to help someone by writing this up – some things just really need to be said, and consequently need to be heard. 


. . .

As kids, we are often asked by adults, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’. A doctor. A teacher. An author. An astronaut. A police officer. A superhero. It’s likely we’ll change our answers every couple of months (years if you’ve really got your life figured out), but we definitely knew what we wanted to be (at that particular time).

We enter our high school years and we pick subjects which we think are the building blocks to making our childhood dreams come true. Somewhere along the way, for whatever reason(s), our mindsets shift from pursuing our childhood dreams to…

  • Working towards a more attainable goal because the road to our childhood dreams seems treacherous.
  • Letting our parents dictate what we should be doing instead
  • Following our older siblings’ footsteps
  • Simply doing whatever we can to achieve a decent HSC mark and figure it all out later
  • Disruptive, unproductive anxiety — that is, being unable to focus and do anything because we are way too overwhelmed by having to figure out our plans for the future, right now

In our final years of high school, we get bombarded by the media, our teachers and family friends about just how important your UAI/ATAR is. We do everything we can to do well — our parents send us to tuition, we spend hours in the library, we pull off all nighters. We make it through to the HSC exams and anxiously wait for the results.

We get our results, the digits which apparently dictate the rest of our lives. For those lucky enough to have obtained the required ATAR result, they’re stoked. For those who didn’t, our career prospects have all of a sudden been limited by what we could choose based on what we’ve received. We went from having the world at our fingertips, to having only a handful of courses that we can actually get into.

We receive our university offers and commence our first year of university — the year where we’re forced to take all the generic subjects in our field, regardless of whether or not we like it. Many of us stick it out through the first semester, or maybe even the first year, with the hope that we’d gain enough credit points and we’d do enough to boost up our grades so that we can switch to the course we actually wanted in the first place. The all nighters we pulled in high school get worse, we might even sign up for some more tuition.

We move onto second year, perhaps enrolled into a different course or maybe we continued with our first choice and we move through our university life — that is, back to back all nighters, huge amounts of group work, reports, presentations and essays.

Before you know it, you make it through to the end of your degree (hopefully unscathed) — and it’s graduation day.

Graduation from university is a huge milestone in itself but I think that the greater feat lies with the fact that we’ve managed to get to a point in our lives where we’ve discerned what we actually wanted to do with our lives — perhaps on purpose, or maybe by chance. We’ve gotten to a point in our lives where we’ve acknowledged the things that we’re not good at, but also discovered our strengths in the process. We’ve gotten to a point in our lives where we are simply a step away from kicking off our careers (for some of us, this is already in-flight by the time we graduate).

I think that in society, we fail to remind the kids, the high school and the university students that you don’t have to know what you want to be when you grow up straight away. I don’t think that as a kid, as a high schooler and as a university student, we are encouraged enough to not be afraid of failure, wherein if we don’t get into the course we want, it’s okay, there are other ways. We are not taught enough about the long and sometimes difficult road to discernment, wherein sometimes what we thought we really wanted to do was not for us and that the field of study we’d actually enjoy was the last thing we expected.


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