40 Days of Gratitude

I’ve always admired people who participated in Lent. Giving up something that I really enjoy, even for a short period of time, has never been one of my strong suits. The extent of my participation in Lent never exceeds using Fat Tuesday as an excuse to buy donuts. This year wasn’t going to be any different-until I got on Facebook tonight.

A friend shared a post from Momestery who suggested giving up something different for Lent; ingratitude. It’s the idea of spending 40 days intentionally seeking out things to be grateful for to change our perspective on our lives. The challenge is simple; write down three things a day that you’re feeling especially grateful for that day.

In a world full of negativity, I think we can all strive to be more grateful for what we have. I think that a major contributor to a happy life is gratitude, but it doesn’t just show up with your morning coffee. Feeling grateful for what you have is something that we have to intentionally seek out. I love that this challenge isn’t just to remove something negative in your life but to inject it with something positive.

Because I’m a night owl, I’m posting this after midnight, making this the first day of Lent. I’m looking forward to the next forty days as I attempt to reduce the ingratitude in my life. I invite anyone who reads this to join me. I want to change how I look at my circumstances and learn to make gratitude a part of my daily life. What about you?

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The College Assumption

“So, what are your college plans?”

All high school seniors (and oftentimes juniors) have to deal with this question an endless number of times from friends and family. Some students have it all planned out and can’t stop talking about the fast approaching college days. On the other hand, there are those who dread the question because they haven’t made up their minds yet and it reminds them of the impending decision that demands an answer.

But no matter the type of student, they’re almost always confronted with the exact same assumption: college is on their mind. Our society functions on the assumption that any high school graduate with adequate grades is going to spend at least four more years at school before entering the real world. In our society, college is not only encouraged, but expected.

Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I am NOT against college. It’s meant to further your education and teach you how to work in your desired career field. It’s also a place where you experience freedom, develop lasting relationships and create amazing memories.

What bothers me is that we treat college like it’s the only option for a successful life. That you have to spend four years at a school that’s going to put you into student debt for the next twenty years in order to get your desired job or make it in the world at all. But college, even with the hundreds of majors and programs out there, isn’t a one-size-fits-all program.

I am coming to the end of my senior year in high school. I recently decided that college isn’t for me, at least not this year. I’ve been researching and planning and imagining what I’m going to do instead. I don’t have it figured out yet, but I’m excited about the possibilities the future holds for me.

After I made this decision I started to fully realize how much society puts pressure on high school students to go to college. Do a google search for “Planning your future after high school.” Almost every single website teaches how to prepare for college, some of them with meticulous detail.

College isn’t so much an option anymore so much as it is an assumption. Students are put into the mindset that college is expected and is mandatory in order to have a successful life. In a way, I think this is limiting for students.

First of all, students feel an overwhelming sense of pressure thinking about college. Getting perfect grades for scholarships, ,extracurricular activities for applications and more scholarships, jobs for money. Students think that college is mandatory, and therefore overwork themselves in order to do well enough to earn the right to further their education. College demands the best of the best to earn scholarships. With the thousands of dollars it takes to afford a decent education, students can’t afford not to overwork themselves.

College is a viable option that most students pursue, and I applaud them for all the hard work they put into it. I just wish we would stop thinking it was the only option. I’ve talked to a number of adults about college. For the most part, they loved their experiences and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but they are still paying off student debts. I’ve talked to people who dropped out of college and couldn’t be happier with their lives. There are also those who finish college and don’t even get a job in the field that they earned a degree for, showing that not all success comes with a college education.

I grew up thinking that college right after high school was the only real option for me. Not because my parents pushed it, but because it’s what everyone does after high school. The idea of taking a year off was unthinkable. Up until a few months ago, I wanted to go to college because it was expected of me, not because I had considered all the options and chosen it. Deciding that I didn’t want to go to college revealed so many other options that I never knew existed: gap year programs abroad volunteering and teaching, internships, traveling, starting a business. There are so many alternatives to college that people don’t have a chance to consider because of the expectation of college.

We’re all different people with unique passions and gifts. Some people have a passion for learning or need higher education to pursue their desired career, and some people can have happy, successful lives without it. I think we should start treating college like an option and not as an assumption. I think that if this idea can be instilled in our society then students can grow up with the confidence to explore all that the world has to offer whether that’s inside a lecture hall or out in the real world. By doing this, I think that students are given their best chance to make the most of their lives.

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