In the latter half of Grade 11, conversations had begun about post-secondary, or post high school life. I remember greatly the mix of emotions. There was the confident, there were those who reveled in dreadful humor that made light of doubts but reflected deeper fears, there was the confused, those that had no answer, some that were sad, and in my opinion, most probably went through all of these. I remember blank empty stares conceptualizing every possible idea to answer...
What am I going to be? Where will I be after high school in the first three months? In six months? In a year? What will others think of my choices? My peers, my family? What will I think of myself? Will I like this person I will work towards? Do I even care?
Although unspoken for many, I was confident these series of questions, or at least some version of it, had crossed the minds of those around me. As a young adult now, those questions are still present in a realm of chaos, mystery, and darkness. However, the difference now is a sense of comfortability with the unknown. The fear that struck most of my peers and I when we were teens, was the complete unfamiliarity of these questions. Most students who have been through Western North American education know that we are subjected into a highly structured regimen, with a high degree of control from “administrators” and rules that establish an overarching system that mold and guide our experiences. The overall work is systemized, with clear explanations in regard to how something is expected to be done, and what the final outcomes should be. Success has clear endpoints.
By the end of Math 10-1, you are expected to have mastered concepts 1, 2, and 3. Then, in English 30-1, a “successful” essay should be structured as a three-layer burger, with the two buns as introduction, and conclusion. The answer to, “how to be successful” is provided by teachers who guide and provide skills for students to navigate themselves to the clear endpoint. Much of life after high school is also the same to an extent that life is also about establishing systems that work for us. We continue to make systems or structures of goals, dreams, and expectations that drive our actions. However, for the teen, at least for most teens, this new experience is alien. The most immediate, at least to my peers and I, was “what right course of action should we take?” This question naturally bore other related questions, such as those outlined above.
In this article, I’ll outline two principles that should be considered while in high school to establish confidence and a sense of stability when confronting these questions.
1) Find your values
It’s important to explore your values, your personality, and your abilities. It is integral that you understand your own individual personal disposition, and conceptualization of both current and future capacities. Knowing this aspect about yourself allows you to align specific goals that matter to you. Your personal idiosyncrasies and values motivate your goals. These goals become endpoints that influence your actions. Actions then provide results. Ultimately, these results then impact your values and inform you of your capacities.
In short, understanding yourself allows you to set specific goals which provide results that further guide your actions, and your idea of yourself. The right course of action, who you think you will be, what you think you are capable of, can be buttressed by specific goals and actions that provide you experiences that answer these questions. Allow your identity and abilities to be tempered by actions and ultimately find expression from ideation to actualization.
2) Explore through experience and action
High school is a ripe period to explore and understand your weaknesses, strengths, and abilities. It provides a space to know your passions, dislikes, and your unique personality. One, high school provides education cheaply on subjects that introduce rudimentary skillsets and foundations to spark interests. After all, post-secondary education or training is fully paid for by the individual’s own money or borrowed money from the government and other financial institutions. Two, other venues such as clubs, internships, trade programs, and resources to volunteer opportunities are readily available. Classes and extra-curriculars that are already systemized, cheap, and available provide students with a chance to tap into experiences that can teach or illuminate on their abilities.
If you value trades, and you find you have a patient temperance, and a passionate disposition towards physical work in a particular craft, allow yourself to pursue a path that allows you to explore this work. Take classes in that area, and see how you can get better, or improve on your weaknesses. Unsure if cooking is for you? Take a cooking class or immerse yourself in the food industry and see if it attracts you.
Take classes that challenge your abilities. You never know if a certain class can spark a particular interest and provide a gateway to a topic of natural affinity. Conversely, it could also illuminate your gaps. For example, though I had little interest in Mathematics, I decided to test myself in Physics to see my abilities in this realm of thought, and its unique approaches and methodologies. Though it was disappointing at the time, when it came to choosing a future path ahead, I realized my weakness, and simply my lack of passion to try harder. As for Social Studies, most of my peers groaned out of boredom. Admittedly, I struggled too because my literary skills were poor. At times, that dissuaded me from the subject. However, the subject for me was fun to urge me to try and do better. The point is that regardless of whether a subject will result in easy grades or not, or whether you are already passionate or good at one or the other, test yourself, and see where your affinities and dislikes lay.
Experiences in clubs and with peers also allow you to push yourself out of your comfort zone and have experiences that teach you about yourself. Try new hobbies and meet new people. Take time to hang out for opportunities to enrich your social abilities and expand your scope beyond your own perspectives. Clubs, sports, and other out of school experiences like hanging out with friends can all tap into skills and values that enrich your understanding of yourself.
Life is a process with a path that resembles little, the linear, systemized paths of primary and secondary education. Although post-secondary education will reintroduce some of these systems, adult life ultimately delivers new responsibilities, demands, and expectations that will push you past established comforts. Life is a branching tree with multitudinous possibilities and ends to answer, “who will I be,” “where will I end up,” “what will I think of myself” or many other versions of it. The diversity is overwhelming, and thus the overwhelming fear and doubt felt in those that encounter this new stage in life (although life’s nature of uncertainty is a constant).
The principles discussed above ultimately assumes that action precedes plan. Because of the aforementioned persistence of uncertainty and the resulting fear and doubt felt from it, it is easy to fall into inaction, or sometimes a perpetual stage of planning. However, by allowing action first, you can let experience be the guide. Experience becomes the teacher, and the cache of knowledge that informs you on yourself.
High school is a great time to explore. Secondary education tuition is manageable, classes provide introductory skills and concepts, and they provide experiences that inform you on your strengths and weaknesses. No class is a waste of time. See what each can teach you. Experiment and understand where your values are. Because when the time comes to make the choices in life after high school, my hope is that you pursue actions that align to the things that matter to your values, beliefs, and capacities.
Author: Elesar Ngateb
"High school is a great time to explore. Secondary education tuition is manageable, classes provide introductory skills and concepts, and they provide experiences that inform you on your strengths and weaknesses. No class is a waste of time. See what each can teach you. Experiment and understand where your values are."
Elesar explains that self discovery is a great way of your own path. He explains that it is helpful to start doing so during high school to help you make a decision on what to pursue upon graduation.