Western should be more like the French

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Fear rides closely with sadness when I think of saying goodbye to the many friends I‘ve made over the past four years. After all, what on earth am I going to do with my life once I finish (fingers crossed) my fifth and final year at Western?

Graduating Western students faced a similar fear this year when they decided what to do after university. There’s a lot of pressure to start a career when formal schooling ends. Even those who plan on taking time to travel are mostly resigned to starting right into a career afterwards. The idea that university students need to have a goal in mind and a career to aim toward as soon as they finish is ridiculous.

What’s the hurry? A popular estimate has our generation holding five or six different careers in a lifetime. If this, or even a lower estimate, is correct, the first career choice we make shouldn’t be an agonizing one since it certainly won’t be our last. This should inspire people to experiment.

Instead, many graduates this past year discussed what they’d be doing for the rest of their lives. No wonder people are scared. The rest of your life is an awful lot of planning ahead to complete in one or even four years of university. If you consider many of us will live comfortably until the age of 80. Actually, our parents will live to 80. With medical advancements continuing as they have for the past 100 years, it’s not a stretch to think we could live even longer.

With the average lifespan increasing, our working life will have to expand as well. To expect to pick a career for the next 40, or even 60 years, is crazy.

The pressure to have direction is probably cultural. I’m currently in southern France, and the pace of life is completely different. Everywhere you turn examples of a more relaxed lifestyle appear. Shops close for hours in the middle of the day during peak tourist season; some things are more important than money and careers.

A more relaxed approach to life is an argument lost on the majority of Western students.

However, it’s important to remember some do not live thinking constantly of how their actions today will advance their position tomorrow. It’s also important to remember the career I choose at the end of my last year won’t be the career I’ll have for the rest of my life, unless I want it to be. Traveling after university is a good first step toward being more relaxed about the future. For a lot of people, travel is seen as a last gasp before ‘real’ life begins.

Maybe if people weren’t so scared about making mistakes with their choices now, they’d experiment a little. Then they might end up doing something they actually enjoyed with their life, rather than something they thought they’d enjoy.

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