Life Lesson #16: Don’t Overlook the Benefits of Home
Friends, We talked about this a bit in Lesson #9 but it’s such an important topic that I wanted to discuss it again. With that in mind, today’s lesson was inspired by Maya Angelou who said, “the ache for home lives in all of us – that safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
A History Lesson…
When I was growing up I couldn’t wait to get out of the house and start living on my own. Which is really odd because I had a great childhood, lived in a house full of love, pretty much got everything I wanted, and didn’t really have a care in the world when I lived at home. But in my generation (a child of the 1970’s and 80’s), the thing to do was to leave home as soon as possible in order to ‘establish yourself as an adult.’ As a result, I went to an out-of-state college at 18 and that was essentially the end of my stay under my parents’ roof. Looking back now, I made a mistake leaving home so early. I just assumed I had to because that’s what all my friends were doing and that’s what I assumed the world expected of me, but in all honesty I wasn’t ready to leave home – I was too immature. Sure you can say that going away to college helped me to grow up, and while that is true, I can also tell you that I didn’t get everything out of the college experience that I should have because I wasn’t really ready for it from an emotional maturity standpoint. This isn’t to say that I got into trouble or did anything wrong – as a matter of fact I graduated at the top of my class. It’s just that socially I wasn’t ready for the experience of living away from home so soon and thus I didn’t maximize the value of my experience.
Growing up is about learning – we’re all going to make mistakes, right? Certainly I can appreciate that argument, but I want you to know that there is a difference between learning from your failures and making avoidable mistakes – the former can lead to valuable life lessons, the latter do nothing but make your life harder! I made my life more difficult than it needed to be by moving away from home too early and running into a lot of avoidable mistakes. For example…
1) I wasted my college experience — schoolwork was easy for me so while I got excellent grades I didn’t really pay attention and learn as much as I could have. I also didn’t use the undergrad college environment to make useful networks, lifelong friends, or build any emotional connections of substance. I chose my college because US News & World Report magazine rated it as one of the top business schools in the late 1980’s and I had the dream to be a stock broker – but in my first semester of business classes I discovered that accounting and economics were a little more difficult than I expected and I also began to realize I had no desire to actually live in ultra-crowded New York City (which would have made working on Wall Street a bit of a problem) so I quickly changed my major to Marketing. Why? Well because my friends at the time told me that ‘so long as you sound like you know what you’re talking about, anybody can be a successful marketing major.’ That sounded easy enough to me so I switched majors — without seeking the advice of any of my parents or trusted counselors and without having any real plan for a career. Strike 1!
2) I didn’t know how to plan for the future — despite graduating with the top GPA of my marketing class and getting multiple job offers with big time marketing firms in Maryland, I turned them all down and decided to move to Florida instead because that was always my dream location to live. I figured I could get the same or better job down there AND enjoy the other benefits of Florida — lots of pretty girls on warm, sunny beaches. Unfortunately without doing research about Florida I made the mistake of thinking that the entire state was pretty much the same wherever you lived – this was obviously not true. In addition, I also quickly discovered that while the expensive Maryland college I went to may have counted for something in the northeast, nobody had ever heard of it in the south and the town I moved to (Jacksonville) was far from a haven for marketing firms. Strike 2!
3) I didn’t know anything about money — top it all off, despite having a scholarship for tuition, by the time I graduated from my expensive private school and moved off to Florida I found myself with no job, no money, lots of credit cards, and nearly $30k in debt (which back in 1993 was a lot of money to owe for a kid without any savings). Strike 3!
Thankfully, God was gracious enough to look out for me. He helped guide me in the right direction and eventually brought me to Tampa where He blessed me with a life beyond anything I could have hoped for – but I firmly believe that I made the process much harder than it needed to be because I tried to do it all on my own and was too immature, embarrassed, and proud to ask my family for help.
What This Means to YOU…
There are a lot of lessons you could learn from my situation, but the one I’d like to focus on today is this — I didn’t appreciate all that my family environment offered me and I didn’t use that ‘haven’ to help set myself up for success early on. I believe now that I would have been better off living at home and going to a local college. Or even working for a year or two after high school and then going to college. Had I done that, I could have grown up a bit more, gained some much needed financial capital to pay for college and avoid taking on debt, AND had time to come up with better plans both for my career as well as where I wanted to live.
Who says you have to leave home immediately after high school? Who says you have to go away to college to grow up? For that matter, who says you have to go to college at all? Countless examples of successful people tell us this is simply not true. There is no one right path you need to follow. Sure if you want to go away to college in order to have the most fun and not be bothered by your parents, then by all means be my guest. But are you really setting yourself up for success? I say take some time after high school and get to know yourself. Backpack across Europe in a budget. Go on a mission trip and do some service. Get a job or internship somewhere that interests you. Grow up a bit and then decide what you want to do. Still want to go to that expensive college? Just be sure you have a good plan as to how you’re gonna pay back all that debt.
What I Would Do Differently…
If I had to do it over again I’d stay at home for a couple years after high school in order to grow up. Personally I’d still go to college because I enjoy the business world and being able to apply the knowledge I learned in college to the real world actually does help in my opinion. But instead of going off to an ultra-expensive, out-of-state, private college, I’d get a part time job and go to the local community college for the first couple years; then I’d transfer my credits to a big name in-state college for the work in my specific major. You’ll get the best of all worlds that way – you’ll save money by living at home and you’ll still get an alma mater that means something in the world – one which you can use for networking and career growth. In addition, I would get an MBA (or other higher level degree like Masters or PhD) immediately after my undergrad work from the same low-cost but big name state school – this puts you so far ahead of the game it’s not funny (but that’s a story for a different day). What matters here is that by living at home you’ll not only experience all of these benefits but you’ll also continue to be a part of the lives of YOUR family – and that is priceless. As I mentioned before, please don’t take your family for granted. They will not be there forever — especially your grandparents and extended family. There is strength in a strong supportive family. If you have that, please don’t waste it.
Don’t Wait, Use This Wisdom Today…
Make the decision to stay home as long as you can and use the benefits of that loving environment to your advantage and you’ll be setting yourself up for success from the start.
Did You Know?
Today’s lesson was adapted from a book Jax and I wrote called Diary of a Minecraft Dad