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Love for learning should be lifelong passion

Posted: November 2, 2010 10:53 a.m.
Updated: November 3, 2010 5:00 a.m.

The most important thing a high school or college student can do, if they haven’t already, is find a focus, in terms of their career. Preferably, this focus is a passion of theirs.

I shared this outlook a couple weeks back when I spoke to a writing class at my alma mater, College of Charleston. A former professor -- and current mentor and columnist -- in Charleston asked that I come down to speak to the class about “life in the trenches” of the writing business, as he put it.

To establish a career track, I told the students, they should do as their business-major counterparts do, and draw up a business or a 5- to 10-year growth plan. A tangible, visible plan will aid young men and women in recognizing their strengths and narrowing down an industry with potential to be a good fit.

This advice stemmed from a disconcerting moment during my Q&A session. When I posed a question to the class asking how many students had a grasp on what field or career they’d like to pursue, a whopping one hand stretched to the air. Alarming, I know. This wasn’t a 100-level class of freshman, but rather a predominantly senior class with young adults who, if they aren’t already, will be applying for professional jobs in the coming months.

I don’t disparage young adults who are uncertain about their future. I understand circumstances and interests and family can play a role. Still, by the time you’re a senior in a four-year liberal arts college, you should have a basic idea of your job-seeking plan.

As I’ve mentioned before on this page, I don’t consider myself exceptionally intelligent or savvy. But traits I’ve always had going for me are persistence, devotion and focus on what I want to do in this whimsical life of mine -- write. Moreover, I realize I’m fortunate in that I came by my career path relatively early, 10th or 11th grade. Since then, I’ve never earnestly considered another field. Perhaps I’ve thought about varying facets in journalism and writing, but never an unrelated industry.

I attribute any shred of career success I’ve achieved to a period of my life I’ve dubbed the Great Shift. The Great Shift was when I shifted my focus away from being “cool” in the elementary sense of the word, and caring only about sports and cliques, to focusing on knowledge, information, and understanding everything there is to know. I’m almost there.

A factor contributing to my Great Shift was when I tore my ACL at 14 and suffered numerous follow-up injuries, forcing me to spend more time with books in my hand.

And perhaps the most considerable contributor to the Shift was the semester I spent living in Florence, Italy, and traveling to various spots around Europe.

So now, while sports are still included in my interests, I pair the Celtics game with a new book or bottle of wine. For each NFL recap I read, it’s preceded or followed by a David Brooks or Christopher Hitchens column.

My hope is that youths 5 or 10 years my junior experience their own Great Shift. They realize the importance of education and current events and recognizing their passions. They understand that opportunities arise out of love for learning.

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