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What if the truth is there's more than one right answer?
Message 17, January, 2021

Dear Guest,

A parent in my community posted this question to a facebook group a few days ago: "Any high school teachers in this group? My 8th grader is confused about the right classes to register for as a freshman next year. We are worried that she only gets one chance at this and we don't know how to help her. Help!" 

This belief in “only one chance” is why it's so hard to see possibilities. Because we honestly think that a 12-year old is obligated to pick the "right" classes as a freshman. As. A. Freshman. 

Because by the time we are 12 years old - at the very latest, and it probably happened to this child much, much earlier - we have been taught that there is only one "right" way to live.

I am not saying parents should stop fighting for a quality education for our kids. That's a choice and for many families, it’s a reality of parenting. 

But I know which high school this child will be attending, and believe me, access to a quality education is a given there.

I have two teenagers myself, so I know for a fact that high school still consists of the usual offerings (English, Math, Science, etc) and a few electives. There is no magic sauce here, no fairy dust to sprinkle. Sometimes the classes are great and sometimes they're not. There will be lots of reading and homework and writing papers and working on so-called "group" projects where one person won't do any of the work but will seem to get the glory for it anyway. There will be friendships and heartbreaks and choices to make and drama in the hallways and football stadiums.

But at no time will there be a "right" set of classes in high school. That's a meaningless concept and a fruitless pursuit. It just reinforces the idea that we are powerless and subject entirely to the whims and structure of systems we happen to be a part of.

What if, instead of trying to come up with THE right answer and conjure up a tidy future for this child, we tell her the truth: your future is what you make of it. Sometimes you will have great and shiny circumstances and sometimes you won't. Lots of people are going to stand around telling you what you should do, based on their experience. Sometimes you will fail or be unfairly held back, and that's part of life.

Most of the time, there will be lots of right choices you could make. It’s always going to be up to you to choose one and get on with it, take action and see what happens. You will change your mind sometimes and then you can try out another right choice.

This life is not going to be fair or easy, but it's going to be what you make of it no matter what choices you make.

Stop worrying about making the "right" choice.* Stop trying to please "the system" by doing what the system tells you to do by default, which is make the correct choices and stop making inconvenient noise about the foolishness of creating a life you want instead of the one somebody else designed for you.

Start making choices knowing that everything is a chance, and that you will get to make another choice. Be prepared to speak up for yourself when things don't go well for you (notice I said "when", not "if") and be willing to ask for help when you need it.

Stop believing in perfect choices, perfect relationships, perfect lives. Start believing that you are resourceful and powerful and that when the time comes, you will have the courage to do hard things, even if everybody else thinks you are wrong.

Someday, when you’re faced with all the right choices you could make as a parent, partner, colleague, entrepreneur or caregiver, you’ll want the skill to understand that your job is to just pick a right choice from among all the possible right choices.

There is no one right choice that’s going to guarantee anything for you. That’s what makes life a fun adventure that’s worth living.

In the next message, I’ve got a little something special to give you. So check back to see when that’s available.

Please let me know if you can relate to this, or if you have any thoughts or  questions, by leaving a comment here.

Kay Coughlin

*If you want help seeing all the right answers that could be just waiting in your mind, take a look at my book, From One Caregiver to Another - Overcoming Your Emotional Grind here.


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