Writer’s Digest Weekly Writing Prompt: Career Day
You’ve agreed to give a talk at your child’s school for Career Day. Not only do you hate public speaking, you found out yesterday that you’ve been fired from your job—and you haven’t told your kid yet. Write what happens when you go to the school to present.
I knew Nisha would be worried, so I made sure I showed up extra early; teenage nerves are not things to toy with. I brought her a bottle of orange juice and her favorite muffin: orange currant. I had been up half the night re-writing what little I had prepared of a speech, but this was important, I couldn’t disappoint her. I couldn’t disappoint the teachers who were counting on me to take five minutes of focus off them. I couldn’t disappoint myself – not again.
I kissed my daughter on the forehead and told her it was going to be fine, I promised I absolutely would not embarrass her by mentioning her in any way, especially not as a baby, or as my precious little girl. I’m not sure whether she was relieved at the reassurance, or terrified that these things had entered my mind in the first place.
There were two other parents (I assume) who were there to speak as well. Both looked successful, business professionals by their dress, and I refused to feel intimidated by them. The notes I had written the night before looked more like foreign languages scrawled on my 3×5 cards, but I swallowed and focused. This was important.
A sea disinterested teens who didn’t really want to hear what I had to say lay out before me as I took the podium and cleared my throat.
“Some of you probably should not waste your parent’s money going to college.” And with that, I could already feel the panic in the room, the scramble for security to ‘get that crazy woman off the stage before she says anything else!’ Maybe that was just my imagination, but I’m sure whispers were going around. “Some of you should probably start practicing how to ask if I want fries with that.”
I saw some shock and some anger in their eyes. That meant they were paying attention. Good. “There will be lots of talk today about picking your life-long career, working your way up the corporate ladder, success being measured in salaries and yearly income. Forget all that. Forget the idea that you have to get one career for life, or that you have to already know what it is. There is no shame in not knowing what you want to do, or in switching jobs every few years if you want to try different things. It isn’t too late to learn that the only success you should really have to worry about is seeing the pride in your children’s eyes when they talk about what you do, so do something they can be proud of.
“Don’t try to sleep, bribe, or back-stab your way to the top. Don’t put up with discrimination in any form, but don’t see discrimination where it doesn’t exist. Don’t put up with crap, but don’t start it, either. You will always be expendable, don’t make the idea too tempting.
“If you want to act like a diva, go into show business and make it big first. If you want to be a writer, you can’t sit around waiting for ‘inspiration’ to strike, you have to sit your butt down and write. If you want to be a starving artist, then ignore everything you hear today, you already know everything you need to know in order to starve.
“Do what you love, if you can; but do what you must to retain your self-respect. Most of you will work 40 hour weeks at jobs you don’t really like just to put food on the table and pay the bills. And most of you will, at some point, find yourself unemployed and looking for a new job. Make sure you’ll be able to hold your head up high when you have to stand in front of a group of career-day teenagers and tell them what reality is really like.”
I’m sure I said some other things before I stepped down from the podium to see the shock and anger in the eyes of the other two speakers, but the applause that filled the auditorium gave them something to consider as they re-evaluated what they were about to say to this same group. Most of all, the pride I saw in my daughter’s eyes made the whole thing worth it, and I somehow knew that when I had to break the bad news to her about being unemployed, she wouldn’t be quite so nervous now.