Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Next Generation

The Well-Wired Child

Nothing will focus your attention on the future like having children. Especially when they've hit their twenties, and you see them making their way about the world. As a parent you hope that you've given them every possible opportunity to prepare for the future, and you hope that you've given them a decent enough world to build on. Over the past few years, however, I've come had my doubts about both.

When each girl was born we took out a Florida Prepaid account for both. My wife and I had decided that we would give them good education at a Florida state school. I worked through college and my wife had taken out loans; based on those experiences we wanted to give our children the opportunity to just go to school and graduate without any financial burdens. We hoped that the girls would do well academically through K-12 on up to college and beyond. Fortunately for all concerned, that's pretty much the way it all turned out.

When my youngest daughter graduated Spring 2011 after four years at FSU, on paper her future looked bright. She'd graduated magna cum-laude and with honors. She had a major in art and a minor in art history. In addition to all her course work she'd also held down a number of on-campus positions, some that paid, and some that were voluntary, but all in an attempt to build up an initial resume that would look good to recruiters and companies looking for entry level employees, either in Tallahassee or elsewhere. But that was on paper. Reality was a whole lot darker.

It turned out that while we were busy raising our kids and paying into Florida Prepaid, the economy grew over-heated, then burst with the Internet bubble, and finally entered the Great Recession (nee Depression) of the mid-2000s with the even larger real estate bubble collapse. By the time my youngest daughter was ready to graduate (and even before that) there were no job offers, no entry level positions anywhere. The best that FSU could do at the time was to offer a job fair with nothing but unpaid internships. FSU provided no help what-so-ever except to make sure she took her assigned classes to graduate and to collect her fees. And there were lots of additional fees above and beyond Florida Prepaid.

She's working right now, but not at what she had hoped to do. It's hourly, which means she has no insurance. And the number of hours worked at the various jobs is low enough that if she gets laid off, Florida's revamped unemployment system won't give her any benefits. Telling her to work hard in school and make exemplary grades and she'd have a shot at a decent job rings pretty hollow right now. I certainly never went through this, but then I came of age during the mid-1970s, nearly forty years ago. My experiences and advice are absolutely worthless for navigating through this particularly bad economic period.

All I can do at this point in time is to do what all parents should do for their kids, and that's give them whatever support possible to help them get launched. She's bright and hard working, and she has zero school loan debt to worry about. That lack of debt offers her tremendous flexibility at this point in her young life. But she doesn't see it that way; she's grown tired of the system and the continuous run around, and I can certainly understand that. So I have to be careful of the advice I give her (if I can even give her any useful advice).

About the best thing I can do is be the ultimate backstop for her. Just because she's "grown up" doesn't mean I've been relieved of my responsibilities as a parent. I'll have those responsibilities until the day I give my last breath. Until that day I will see both girls succeed, and go beyond where I've gone in my life. Right now, it's just tough to envision.

2 comments:

  1. Yeah Bill, it's a difficult time, right. But then again: wasn't it always that way? If we think about good old times and such, we often forget that world of Dickens, where kids had to crawl up chimneys or down into coal mines...

    I remember those posts of yours from last year, when you helped your daughter to move to Talahassee. Now there are no jobs there (nor anywhere here). I think before even being able to think about terms like 'advice', we should see and listen to them kids - it's about their life, their dreams, and so on. Some are like driven, they know exactly the thing they want to do, and they absolutely have to do this. Others take an upcoming opportunity, shrug, and make the best of it. Others again have no idea at all what to do with the rest of their time, or with what even to begin.

    Yeah, it's difficult, especially for graduates (and more so for those who studied arts). But give her some time. Send her off and overseas here to Europe - if she wants to see art, there's plenty. Jobs? Not so many - but who knows, she might even find a good position somewhere. If you enjoy the temperatures in that 'sunhine state' where you all live, I'd recommend the Mediterranean for starters, like Italy. But Germany, France, England (or even Scotland and Ireland) are great as well, tho of course lots colder, and maybe not as friendly and easy-going.

    World is getting smaller - I went to Asia to marry my wife. And one of my brothers-in-law - can you image - is working and making lenses for Canon. It's great to see all those different cultures and places as long as they (and we) are around...

    My sons? One took the opportunity to learn the job of an electrician, the other one has no idea what to do whatsoever. I wonder what the world will look like when our small one (now 7) will finish high school, or graduate.

    Me, myself? If I could do it all over again? Hm, good one - if I'd had the chance to, I'd try again and become a musician or even a photographer. But trying to think more realistically, I would probably be something like a carpenter. At least you see some finished work in the end - that totally differs from IT ;-) But I#d surely go and travel, lots of.

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  2. hey, that phone looks like a Nokia E63 ... but the headphone socket is on the wrong side...

    :-)

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