…it’s how I felt in high school.

And I’ll bet you did too.

The swirling hormones, roller coaster mood swings, excitement, friends-related drama. The frequent inability to focus. And somewhere, in the background, the constant pressure of looming tests and homework deadlines.

Science tells us the brain doesn’t fully mature until age 25.

And yet, it is at this unformed age that we are called on to make education decisions that will, in many cases, chart a course for the rest of our lives.

How did you go about that? How does anyone go about that?

Here’s how it happened for me:

Most of my teachers were not extraordinary storytellers or people who could inspire. They were transmitters of information. We would read, listen and learn, and they would test us. It all came down to test scores and grades. That was a game I could play. Sit and bear it and get your reward.

I also saw the reward as freedom to someday make choices about what I wanted to do.

Except when the day came to choose, I really had no idea what the choices might actually be, not to mention a clue about what I wanted to actually do.

It’s not surprising, then, that I went into education and became a teacher. It was, at that tender age, all I knew and could envision based on my limited life experience and narrow exposure to options. I taught my sister to read at a very early age. I was also the teacher’s helper in elementary school and was called on to lead reading groups and tutor students that were struggling. I was very empathic and could adjust instruction to a variety of learners. I also thought that if you were good at something that meant it was probably your life’s vocation, right?

It all added up to…teacher.

Except it didn’t.

The rest of the story was that I was also good at and had an interest in many other things (science, particularly geology, art, design, language) but “teacher” was one of the few vocations I knew of that had a clear career plan attached to it.

The decision I made to enter education (at the ripe old age of eighteen) had more to do with my lack of self-awareness and career knowledge than any real wisdom or insight about my natural aptitude abilities. Sound familiar?

Spoiler alert: teaching didn’t work out for me.

This though I went all the way to master’s level degree in the subject.

But how could things have happened differently for me? What steps could have been taken back then to help me understand more about myself? If life is a journey and not a destination, wouldn’t it help to at least determine a general direction in which to sail? Maybe even a continent on which to land?

Stay tuned, sailors.