By Ryan Healy — Most of my friends would love to run their own business some day. Me too. However, we believe the first logical step is to get a few years of work experience, make connections, and save money.
A couple of months ago, my good friends from college, Matt, Cole and Adam, came to visit for the weekend. These three want none of that work experience I’m talking about, so they are opening up a sandwich shop in a college town.
The first thing Adam said when he saw me was, “What does it feel like to be in 17th grade?”
He was referring to the fact that I live in an apartment complex with hundreds of other “young professionals” who are basically living the same boring (his words) lives. At first I laughed it off and told him that he was just jealous that I was making money and could afford to live in a nice place like this.
But after thinking about it, I understand what he means. I more or less live in an adult dorm, albeit a super-sized and super-expensive dorm. Every morning I wake up and put on a suit, or as my buddies call it, a “uniform.” I walk to the subway with all the other young workers or “students,” and I take the subway or “school bus” to work, or as Adam would say, to “17 th grade.”
I have to admit, thinking about post-college years in this way can make me question why I am doing this instead of pursuing something I love. But I have chosen to take a different perspective about this whole 17th grade idea.
Of my college friends, about half are in graduate school. They are in 17th grade much like me; however they are paying for it while I am being paid, and I’m learning how to live in the real world at the same time.
I do not consider myself to be an adult. Whether you think there is something wrong with this or not, it’s a fact. And I would say it’s safe to assume that if you took an inventory of recent college grads in the workplace or grad school, the majority would give you the same answer. I don’t know when or if I am supposed to be an adult. I’m thinking it will be around the time I start a family.
Because of this, I guess you could say that my company has replaced my parents as my support system. They provide me with money to put a roof over my head, they pay the insurance companies to cover most of my medical needs, and instead of asking mom and dad for my weekly allowance, I just wait for that good old bi-weekly paycheck to appear in my bank account.
I try to learn something from everything I do. This so-called 17th grade is just what it sounds like — an educational opportunity for me to master before I graduate to the next phase of my life or the next “grade.” What that grade will be, I have no idea, but I hope to figure it out while I’m here. It might be my own business, it might be a management position in a small company, or it may have absolutely nothing to do with business at all.
My ideal 17th grade will teach me how a successful company runs, how to improve my public speaking skills, and how to work with and eventually manage a diverse group of people. The question I ask myself is, which company or “school” as my buddies would say, will provide me with the best “education?”