I recently finished reading “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. For those of you not familiar with the tale it is the coming-of-age story of the four March sisters — Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Now, if you talk to someone who has read the book, or seen the movie, you’re likely to hear about Jo and Beth as favorite characters. Meg isn’t really on anyone’s radar, not surprising since she is more or less a noncharacter in the second half of the book. Amy is the obnoxious one and it seems she usually gets a bad rap.
It’s ironic, however, because Amy gets arguably one of the best lines in the book, “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
This line comes as the story draws to a close; the sisters are grown and have weathered the trials and joys of growing up and the death of Beth.
I’ve written columns before about education and the changes that are coming to our school systems. I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about, and having conversations about my experience in one of the local systems, about my university experience and about what local districts are trying to do and the vision they are trying to realize in preparing their young people for tomorrow. About what I liked, what I loved, what I wish had been different and what I wish I knew as I went from an institution of higher education to the rest of life. About the way the world is and the challenges that Millennials face as a generation.
I believe students and recent grads need to have a voice in the changes that are coming. After all, it is our lives that our being scrutinized and their lives that will be affected. As I’m sure our readers know, finding living-wage jobs amid the worst recession since the Great Depression has been the chief struggle we as Millennials have faced as we have come of age. I like to think this challenge could become one of our biggest strengths.
This is the way the world is and we have to find a way to live in it. We must find a way to sail our ships and weather the storms individually and collectively. That’s part of growing up. Every generation before us has had to figure it out, too. The challenge will be good for us.
I can only speak from my own experience, but I learned a lot in the time between graduation and my first real paycheck. There were good times like seeing friends graduate, road-tripping across the country, standing with my sister as she got married and with a friend when she did too, and the birth of my niece, Emma.
Then there was the hard stuff. The countless, and sometimes seemingly endless, job rejections, and two cancer diagnoses in my family. Sometimes I wondered if I would ever be a writer. But through all of that I learned. About not giving up and fighting for your dreams. About sticking it out and holding on. I know those are lessons I’ll take with me into the rest of life.
Last week was my 24th birthday and my sisters did something incredibly cool: they framed my first column for me. See, it wasn’t just a column, it’s a reminder of everything I went through to get there, to get here.
In the end, after all the classes, tests, sports, extracurricular activities, programs and everything else, it is up to us to make the most of what this world has given us and to take on the storms we face, and as Amy said, to learn to sail our ships.