Diagnosing one's career path -- come sail away with me

A veterinarian? Hmmm. After dozens of questions on lifestyle, manual dexterity and academic interests, the faithful computerized career aptitude test had winnowed down a field of nearly 5,000 careers to just one.

That's right, a veterinarian. Never mind that I count biology as one of the most difficult and confusing classes I have ever taken, am tolerant but not particularly warm toward most domesticated animals, am acutely allergic to cats, and have minimal interest in curing kitty kidney disease. My future is set. The career planning gods have spoken. Suturing schnauzers will define my career.

Now, please don't get me wrong. I have a large amount of respect for the men and women who do this work. My own inability to separate mitosis from microbes further magnifies their prowess in my eyes. But the fact is I'm pretty sure that's not where I'm headed.

And so it was, shortly after the day of the fateful declaration, as my extended family began to murmur about "the future," that I formed a new plan. Instead of attending a university, I planned to utilize all of my personal funds reserved for educational purposes to buy a very modest yacht (perhaps, I hoped, as my friends realized the wisdom of my vision, they would chip in, allowing for the purchase of something larger than a bathtub). With my sails rigged, I would then sail around the world and, using my somewhat sketchy Spanish and a variety of intriguing glances, break hearts at every port. That's correct. I would run far away from any educational institution and live a life of deception and intrigue.

However, strangely enough, my parents did not warm to the idea. A few friends even dared to question whether such a life would fit inside my currently defined moral structure. My subsequent occupational inspirations -- a permanent housekeeper for my family (my mother noted shrewdly that it wasn't my strength), a career mascot for Mayo High School (I've got plenty of school spirit, but I'm a bit short it seems), a rapper (enough said) and a professional computer solitaire player (I'm unstoppable, what can I say?) met with similar resistance. And I guess, to be totally honest, as much promise as I show in each of these fields, I'm not sure there's much of a future in any of them.


But as I accept these realities, a voice within me cries, "You're 17, that's still a long way off." Or, alternately, "Who are you trying to please anyway? Shouldn't you be seeking your career based on what YOU want?"

Therein lies the problem that teens everywhere face. What is a fair balance between being realistic and dreaming big? Pleasing ourselves and respecting those who have raised us? The need to explore our world and the need to determine a direction? Where should we be? What should we want? One moment the world seems under control, and the next, between well-intentioned advice and mounds of paperwork, a place on Mikaela's yacht sounds quite inviting.

Luckily, (and I wish I could remember this more often myself) most of us are going to turn out just fine. Even those of us that false start, get mixed up and make mistakes -- even really super big mistakes -- will be all right in the end. Not everyone needs to go straight from high school to four years of college to the work force. For every person in the world, there is a different path to take. There are so many amazing, beautiful people that have not followed a formula or done everything right. Only in betraying what you truly love can you really go wrong. And if all else fails, there's always room on my yacht, I promise.

Mikaela Hagen is a senior at Mayo High School. To respond to an opinion column, call 252-1111, category TEEN (8336); write Teen Beat, Post-Bulletin, P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 559036118 or send e-mail to

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