‘Taking a year off’ makes things a lot tougher later

For the purpose of full disclosure, let me state that I do not have any children. To some people that means I have no experience or right to comment on proper parenting practices.

On the other hand, it does give me an opportunity to look at things from a practical standpoint as opposed to one with an emotional attachment. With that being said, I continue.

This is a transitional time of the year for many young people. Most have recently graduated from high school and are deciding what to do with their lives: Get a job, go to college or trade school or possibly complete one year of college and decide whether to return to school or change their life direction. All are complicated and difficult decisions.

I faced the same decisions when I was in that stage of my life and know how tough it can be to make major life decisions without the real-life experience on which to base those decisions.

However, one option I often hear when talking to people with children or grandchildren in this category is one I never heard when I was young, “They, (son or daughter, granddaughter or grandson, fill in the blank), are going to take a year off.”

Take a year off! From what? From not eating? From not driving your car? From not going to parties? From not letting their parents continue to support them?

Exactly what do you do when you aren’t working, increasing your education level or learning a skill?

When I was growing up, no one ever told me that “taking a year off” was an option.

My parents were wonderful, hardworking people, but I feel pretty sure if I had announced that I was “taking a year off,” I would be looking for my next meal behind the grocery store, picking through the wilted lettuce that got tossed out.

Life is what happens while you are taking a year off. Life is like paddling a canoe up a fast-flowing stream. Far upstream there might be some flat water in which you can just float and relax, but to get there you have a lot of paddling (hard work) to do. If you stop paddling (take a year off), you may feel like you are getting a free ride, but that ride is taking you downstream, making the trip paddling upstream only harder at a later date.

Living life is like running a marathon. You have to train, be ready and run your best race. You don’t stop part way through the race to drink a beer, eat a cheese steak hoagie and still expect to win.

It would be foolish to suggest that these are not difficult times, but they are difficult for everyone. If someone can’t decide if they want to be a nun or an exotic dancer, it is obvious that they should take some time to think it over, but they also need to eat in the meantime. I don’t think it is a parent’s responsibility to support their children until they decide to wash their own socks.

If someone told me they were “taking a year off” to dig fresh water wells in Africa or build homes in flood disaster areas or some other humanitarian purpose, I am in total support and might even kick in a few bucks to help.

But if they just want to “hang out for a year,” sorry, don’t look for sympathy here. I am not certain what has happened within our society, but I am sure the “everyone gets a trophy mentality” has something to do with it.

Another interesting aspect of life’s picture is the recent college graduates looking for a job. Many have a slanted view of what life “owes” them. I talked to a recent graduate who said: “I am not just taking any job. I should be able to get at least $50 per hour. After all, I have a degree.”

“Yes,” I said, “you have a degree. The problem is you don’t really know anything and for at least a year you will be worthless to the company that hires you.”

He was shocked, but the truth hurts. A degree is a ticket to get a chance to prove yourself. How well you succeed in life is dependent upon what you can do, not on what you did. There will always be jobs, and the opportunities available today in working for a business or company or in starting your own business are endless. Not easy, but endless.

Actually, in many ways those opportunities are increasing daily because so many young people have decided to “take a year off,” which eliminates a lot of the competition.

John Kasun writes from his home in Duncansville.

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