Every session I have with a senior is a chance for me to get to know a special young adult. I consider myself super lucky and blessed to work with this age group. It’s an exciting time in their life, they have energy, and it’s usually the first time they’ve ever had a custom portrait experience! I want to capture my seniors as authentically as possible and increase their confidence both in front of and hopefully long after my images have been hung in their home, so getting to know them is crucial.
My usual conversation with a senior leads to wanting to know their hopes and aspirations for the future. I’m in awe of those who already know exactly what they want to do at this age and possibly a little jealous. I shared my feelings in my Instagram stories last week and it was heartwarming how many of you responded saying you felt the same way. You see, I was completely clueless as a high school senior. When I was middle school-aged I was convinced I wanted to be a marine biologist. Funny thing is, I’m scared of slimy, swimming things and I’m allergic to shellfish. In high school I thought I wanted to be a pharmacist. I could work in the medical field (kind-of runs in my family) without having to deal with needles or blood. Then I learned how much chemistry I would have to endure. Nope.
I graduated from Randolph-Macon College (an incredible, private, liberal arts $chool) with a degree in psychology and sociology. I went to work for a financial firm, then decided my calling was to become a nurse after caring for several ailing family members. I graduated Cum Laude from nursing school, worked in critical care, family medicine, and school health while my photography business was born. Although I’ve been a full time photographer for 8 years, I’ll always be a nurse in some capacity. (I currently volunteer my nursing skills!) I might even go back to school one day. I guess you can say I’m “well-rounded” but I do love to learn. 🙂
Using my experience as an example (and don’t hate me here!), but I highly recommend questioning college unless you have a clear idea of your future career plans. I have a SUPER expensive and beautifully framed college degree that I’m really proud of. But has it really done me a bit of good career-wise? I don’t think so. I thought it was the only logical next step. But does it have to be?
I see how much pressure teens are under to make a big college decision and to revel in the celebration of moving on after graduation. I hear many of you saying “I’ll go to college, but I don’t know what I’m going to do.” While that’s perfectly okay too, I urge you to think about the financial aspects if they exist for you. Will you be paying for this unknown degree or do you feel comfortable with your parents paying for it? Will you have student loans? I’ll let you know a secret. At 40 years old, I’m STILL paying for my college degree, and it doesn’t sit well.
It’s OKAY to say “I’m not sure yet” or “I’m still exploring my options” when you’re asked about your future plans. There’s nothing shameful about not knowing yet. You’re young and don’t have to feel pressured to take the same path as your peers. Okay, but, “you’re smart, you’ll get into a good school.” But is spending a clueless $120,000+ a smart idea?”
There are many paths you can take as a high school graduate. Don’t overlook a year or more of career exploration at a community college. And there’s NOTHING wrong with taking a “gap” year to travel, accept an internship, or take a job or two in a field you want to explore. Or take a jobs/shadow in those fields WHILE you’re in high school! College students, graduates, and friends, please know that I’m not frowning on the college choice at all! Education is SO important and for those who have an idea of their career path that requires a college degree, GO for it!
Lastly, it’s also totally acceptable to change your mind on a career once, twice, or even more. Your interests can change over time as you discover new passions. It’s also completely possible to have more than one career. Look at this girl! <–
If you feel you need permission to make a less-popular decision, you have mine. Thing is, you don’t need it! Your future is YOURS and YOURS alone. That’s a powerful idea isn’t it? 🙂
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All Photos and Text Copyright 2020 Laura Matthews Photography, LLC
Laura is a native of Glen Allen, Virginia. She specializes in portraits of high school seniors, children, and families. Laura serves the Greater Richmond area including Henrico, Hanover, and Chesterfield. Laura also travels for sessions to the eastern part of VA as well as the Outer Banks of North Carolina.