Posts Tagged ‘staircase of life’

Forrest Gump’s mama always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates,” but the older I become, the more this mom views life as a series of never-ending staircases, much like those drawn by M.C. Escher. At particular phases in life, we climb metaphoric stairs and reach the top, only to find that another level exists and another staircase awaits. We learn the rules of the game during each ascent, but discover the game changes at every level.

Parenting is a good example of my analogy: you start with a sweet, little baby, but no sooner do you get a grip on exhausting infant-ways, then your baby walks, talks, and throws tantrums. Mastering potty-training raises cheers and exultations, but creates a degree of independence, which allows your child to leave the safe haven of your arms to go to school. After years of navigating through playground dramas and class projects, you warily enter the hormonally-charged world of adolescence. By the time you regain some balance after the “driving” years, your child moves on to college applications. And before you can decipher the FAFSA form, your child graduates from college and finds a job.

Recently, my youngest child and her friends reached a new level by graduating from college. With high hopes they look to the future with new sets of goals and new sets of stairs to climb. For some of them, their staircases are straight forward – graduate school. For others, the staircases are long and narrow – medical school. But for many of them, their staircases rise, twist, and turn – the path of uncertainty. In the past, a college degree usually led to a job. Not so anymore. For those looking for jobs, the ascent is made more difficult by an extraordinarily bad job market.

For example, a recent ad my daughter looked at quickly excited her, but ultimately discouraged her. It read:

Looking for an energetic, detail-oriented person. Check!
Must be organized and able to multi-task. Check!
Must be a self-starter and be willing to work long hours. Check!
Must be proficient in Word, Excel, and Power Point. Check!
Must have the ability to work quickly under tight deadlines. Check!
Must have a 4-year college degree. Check!
Must have nonprofit experience. Check!
Must have at least five years of work experience. No!

With so many bright, intelligent, and experienced competitors for so few positions, employers have a gourmet assortment to choose from. If all employers hire experienced workers, who will give the inexperienced the experience they need? I will never forget the dentist who hired an energetic, young dental hygienist fresh out of school. I am eternally grateful to him for believing in me enough to take a chance on me. Hopefully, there are other employers out there who can remember what it was like to get their first job and their first vote of confidence, and who are willing to consider vitality and eagerness over experience. My daughter, her friends, and other recent college graduates will need patience and this kind of help to get to the next level. Landing that first job, of course, puts them at the bottom all over again!

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”
Nelson Mandela

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