Our son (the tall one in the front left side of the photo with the MIT shirt on) just came back from graduating from the National Leadership Council program in Colorado. I hope to have another blog devoted to this benchmark when more pictures become available. (We were the only parents who were unable to go so I have no first hand photographs. This photo of the 20 kids with their parents and mentors I pilfered from blog reader Mary Ellen’s Facebook page; she was there. Also in the photo above is my son’s mentor Eric and another blog reader, Elizabeth. So, photos – and feedback – pretty please?!) Anyway, NLC has been wonderful for my son and the epiphany this post refers to is only one of many manifestations of this fact.
Earlier today I was sitting outside my youngest daughter’s ballroom class, unclear about what I should do. Usually this time is utilized very purposefully, so this feeling was quite strange for me. I ended up spending the whole time in quiet thought, reflecting. The only product of that time period was a weird out-of-the-blue Facebook status I posted via my iPhone: “We didn’t raise our children to be what we wanted them to be. We have tried to figure out who they are, and then encourage them to be thoroughly that.” This was completely out of context for me to say, but I was compelled to anyway, not really sure why. (Interestingly it got as many “likes” as Andrew being offered the Presidential Merit Scholarship at WPI…)
Later this evening, while my husband was picking up our son from the airport and my youngest was off at Robotics, I again found myself unable to decide between two out-of-the-house activities both of which seemed should happen. I was immobilized, not knowing which to do first. I sat down to ask God what to do, and pretty much “stay right here” was the answer. I felt oddly skewered to the spot. The plan was my husband was going to drop my son off directly at Robotics, so I was very surprised to find both of them walking through the door. They, in turn, were surprised and relieved to find me at home. What was going on?
My son had had an epiphany and felt an urgent need to discuss it with us as soon as possible. Forget the pleasantries of “how was your weekend away,” “did you have a good trip,” or “tell us about your graduation!” He launched right in: “I don’t want to go to engineering school after all, I want to major in economics.”
Whoa, slow down. We had just spent all fall intensely focused on applying to engineering schools. Only one school – from the time he was considering a Political Science major – had been kept in the mix just in case he would change his mind from engineering. And he had said many times we should axe that one off the list, since it only offered a 3/2 engineering program. But I kept saying it should remain as an option because he had been genuinely enthused about it at an earlier time. Thank goodness! Because if he no longer wants to go into a categorical engineering program, it rules out several schools to which he has applied! Fortunately, however, several of the schools he did apply to don’t require you to declare your major until later; these schools are tough to get into but do have strong liberal arts programs. We had chosen these schools expressly because we knew he would need as much of a liberal arts component to the engineering option as possible.
But why the sudden, definitive shift? Apparently the night before going to Colorado he was working hard getting his AP Economics homework done. He had an Econ paper to write which he enjoys doing. He gets 100% on these efforts with no sweat at all, once even hearing back from the teacher that he should look into getting his paper published. Anyway, he just relished the assignment, truly thrilling to it and embracing it. He realized the contrast of this feeling with his AP Calculus and AP Physics homework: not fun, merely dutiful. Hummm… he could have much more of this delight by pursuing economics as his main event! This stuff comes naturally to him, and he reads books like All Your Worth by Elizabeth Warren in his free time.
I have always thought that his interest in Political Science sounded actually much more like Economics because of which issues he focused on. He had denied this fact as vehemently as I had denied considering being a teacher or a healer; everyone in my immediate family were teachers or healers (so I went to engineering school.) My husband’s father had a PhD in Economics, his brother and sister both majored in it, and even his mother studied it. Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that on the one hand, I started a healing practice and homeschooling (teaching), and on the other, he started considering Economics. And that neither of us stuck to the divergent independence of the presumed engineering pursuit? Maybe apples don’t fall far from their trees after all.
But going to the retreat with his NLC class (along with parents and mentors) this past weekend sealed these thoughts for him. Wanting to be supportive, folks there would bring up engineering, knowing he had applied to those schools, and he wasn’t at all excited talking about it, but would shift the conversation to something more interesting, like the Federal Reserve. Over and over he noticed that it was Economics that he wanted to talk about and listen to others talk about. He noticed that the Robotics team he had been so devoted to was rather like a sports team fondly enjoyed in high school: it was wonderful and important at the time, but not necessarily career fodder. Imagining him looking at a college course catalogue bursting with options, it is true my that son would naturally gravitate to economics courses, rather than the engineering ones. Like me, engineering is definitely something he can do, and it is attractive from a job security standpoint, but it isn’t likely blissful.
So we shall see how this all plays out! Meanwhile, I find it very interesting that not only was he able to discern clearly the subtle clues spiritual sense used to nudge him to a new way of thinking, but that I was so graciously prepared to hear this news as well. Some parents would find this abrupt change midstream difficult to swallow. As it was, I was easily able to immediately see the authenticity of what he had perceived, and instantly could genuinely champion both the idea itself and his courage in addressing it. God is outlining each step, not us. And every step of the discovery process for what God has in store for each of us can be joyous!