Monday, March 7, 2016

Realistic Expectations

     Braden, for the first time ever, is considering the possibility of entering the military straight after high school, not just as a last ditch option—praise God! Prior to this, whenever I'd asked him what his hopes or plans were, he always said “Probably college”—meaning a four year university, at which point I'd remind him of the expense and extreme difficulty of graduating unless he studies really, really hard as it is very competitive and demanding and if he thinks high school is hard, think again, college is way, way harder and slacker attitudes don't cut it, and if he thinks we're going to pay all that money for him to fool around and not put his best effort in and not graduate, then he's got to think again. Or something to that effect.
     I wasn't trying to discourage him, really, I was trying to motivate him—to prove that's he's worthy now, by making straight A's, and by putting in hours of study effort every night, meeting with teachers, or whatever it takes to do it, effort that would show he's worthy of attending college despite less than stellar grades and struggles time and again in his chief academic subjects of math, English, science, and history. But it's never, ever sank in sufficiently and he's always put in minimal effort to get by (in my eyes) because whenever I'd ask him what he'd learned or what he'd studied, or asked him follow-up questions, he'd all-too-often struggle to explain himself as if he weren't quite sure. Or when I'd ask him to look up a word he'd mispronounced, he'd fume and vent as if he hated having to do it. And he'd get mediocre grades and not follow-up on them by redoing the work to make sure he'd finally “gotten it.” And on and on and on. 
     I think I have a fairly realistic view of academics and for Braden to thrive in the university environment would take a love of learning and studying and knowing stuff and excelling that he just doesn't possess at this time and with time running out (he's a sophomore), I've made clear time and again that he's got to start now if he's serious about college. But he never has shown such change.
     So it was a blessed relief when I recently asked him and he said, “Maybe the military.” Our family has a history with the military: though my parents and grandparents were excused for medical reasons, uncles and granduncles have served honorably and a few are already interred at Punchbowl National Cemetery. I've told him about the G.I. bill-type benefits that would pay for his college if he served for an agreed number of years.
     But I mentioned his medical condition (a mild genetic disorder) that might (though not very likely) prevent him from passing the physical. What's your backup option, then? I asked.
     He said maybe a trade school such as construction or electrical.
     I said that's viable—you could go to a two-year community college for that, though construction is very hard, physical work (and dangerous—a wall could fall on you, you could fall off a ladder or ledge, you could step on a nail) and guys who get into it love working out and tend to be competitive and don't like slacker coworkers or those unable to keep up and I don't see those traits in you (as he hates to exercise, never does workouts on his own, and when forced to, only does the minimum at that.) But I did say, You could be an honest handyman or other skilled worker and make a good living that way as those are always in demand.
     What about cooking? I later asked. 
     “I haven't ruled it out,” he said.
     I said that if you're interested in it, the route is not directly to KCC's (Kapiolani Community College's) prestigious culinary school that is super-competitive, but going straight to work in a kitchen. Learn there for two, three, or four years everything about the job—it's hard, stressful work, hot, uncomfortable, and demanding. Some people, after they get a degree, work in a commercial kitchen and discover they hate it, then switch careers to something else. Find out first if you like that pressure-cooker environment and if you do, after a few years, then enter culinary school. By then you should have ideas of how to make things better—that's what a chef does, creates new things.
     Later it occurred to me that perhaps more practical and likely is his doing what my mom did all her working life and what so many of my coworkers in the state do: administrative clerical work. I explained to him that a two year degree at a community college would prepare him and he'd work with mostly women and just do what he's told. The pay isn't great but he could work his way up as certain did in my state department and are now division heads. 
     So he's no longer just thinking about entering a four-year college straight out of high school. I told him this wouldn't preclude such a degree. Even if you don't go the military route, you could save and finance college on your own after you start working. People who pay their own ways through college take studying very, very seriously, knowing how expensive it is and how long it takes to save enough money. They don't take their educations for granted.
     I don't mind investing in his future. I just can't stand the thought of flushing money down the drain on slacker play-around attitudes. Especially not at the out-of-this world college tuition and room and boards rates these days. (They were cheap during my college days by comparison!)

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