By: Hao Shi PLA Team Leader
During the final lecture of one of my fourth year classes, the professor asked us in turn “What was the best piece of advice someone had ever given you?” On the spur of the moment, some of us came up with sleep and live in the present – mundane recommendations that could be found in a fortune cookie.
After everyone had given their nuggets of advice, the professor proceeded to give her own. It had to do with the choices we make after graduation. I know for a fact that many students in their graduating year worry and have doubts about whether they have chosen the right career path. It is a frightening time for some, even more so than four years ago after you finally finished high school. This is the advice that the professor gave to the class.
No matter which path you take, in 5, 10, or even 15 years time, you will look back on this day and say to yourself, “I have made the right choice.” Let me illustrate what she meant with a story.
Charlie was in his graduating year of university, yet he is undecided on his career. He had worked hard all his life and had been accepted into an Ivy League medical school. However, he has doubts about whether or not he should accept his offer because, coming from a family of bakers, his family income could not possibly sustain the financially-demanding nature of such education.
In one scenario, Charlie accepts his medical school offer. The decision was very taxing on himself and his parents. They had to work twice the normal amount of hours and give up all vacation time just so Charlie could continue his education, not to mention having to take out five-figure loans that they could only dream of paying back. Nevertheless, Charlie continues his studies in Harvard Medical School and becomes a family doctor after 5 years. In another 5 years, he has earned enough money to pay back his loans and put a down payment on a house for his parents. In addition, he has freed his parents from their 6am-10pm workdays. This has been his dream since he was a young boy – to complete school, become a successful doctor, and purchase a large property for his parents to move into. A decade after Charlie graduates from university, he says to himself, “I have made the right choice.”
In a second scenario, Charlie does not take his medical school offer. He chooses a path with less financial burden – graduate school. Charlie travels abroad and spends his next 10 years in Germany, solving the mysteries of neuron regeneration. He obtains his Masters degree and a PhD in this time. 8 years after he had began his research, he and his colleagues discover the growth factor that promotes neurons of the central nervous system to rapidly regenerate and share a Nobel Prize for this achievement. Since that day, Charlie has been invited to speak at hundreds of prestigious symposiums about his work. A decade later after Charlie graduates from university, he says to himself, “I have made the right choice.”
In a third scenario, Charlie chooses not to continue his education. He decides to stay home and help his parents run the family bakery. Using the skill sets that he had acquired throughout his secondary and post-secondary education, he helps his parents expand the business into a franchise and opened up chains in three different cities. One day, at an annual family business event, he meets the love of his life. They date for two years, become engaged, and marry shortly after. Three years later, they have a beautiful pair of twins, and the two continue to run the family business for many years to come. A decade after Charlie graduates from university, he says to himself, “I have made the right choice.”
The moral of the story is that despite choosing to go down completely different paths, Charlie would have been equally happy with his life ten years down the road. The outcome will not be apparent to you at the moment, but over time, you will find more and more reasons why you made the best decision.
To my graduating friends, I hope this small piece of insight will help alleviate your current anxiety and let you realize that your future is in good hands. 🙂