This is fairly apropos of nothing. I was just thinking about it today and wondering what I would say to Small in 10-12 years time when he's got to start looking at careers.
Firstly I think it's slightly obscene that a society that doesn't grant it's youth enough maturity to choose to smoke until 16, get married until 16 and drink til 18, nevertheless expects children as young as 12 to make decisions that will shape it's entire future and gives very little opportunity to backtrack later. Yes, you can do it but it's not made in the least bit a straightforward or easy process.
Anyway, I never had a clue what I wanted to do for a living, still don't really. Careers Advice at school wasn't up to much, to my memory it consisted of a maths teacher being taken out of timetable for a week and interviewing each kid in turn, telling them what subjects they needed to follow that path. If you didn't know, you were given access the Big Book Of Jobs (not it's real name I'm sure) and told to pick something.
Not having a dream to fulfill, at least in my case, made things much harder. In the end I just a few subjects I liked and the rest of my timetable was filled with compulsory subjects and ones that were the least bad of what was left. There was no feeling of having to do well, because I didn't have a goal to focus on and anyway I was busy being adolescent and angry and unpopular.
It seems to me now that it might have been valuable if someone had helped me find a goal, a dream, something I badly wanted to do. I think I went about it all the wrong way. My memory of career choices as they were presented at school was that girls could either aim to be a doctor or a lawyer at one end of the scale, a secretary or nursery nurse at the other. I didn't have a clue about what those jobs actually were about, I didn't know what other myriad choices there were out there. It was all the wrong way round. I shouldn't have looked at the list of jobs and tried to find the one I could aim for. I should have looked for the things in my life I enjoyed - not the subjects, gods if only someone had told me then what a false, fleeting misrepresentation of life school subjects are - but actual activities, interests, events that I was happiest when I was doing and then found a job that let me do them. But back then there was so much focus on how you should do the subjects you were good at and that would lead you to the job you were aiming for. Such silliness, being good at something when you're 12 might be talent but talent only takes you so far. It's hard work that you the rest of the way and if you have to work hard anyway, you might as well give subjects you're not so natural for a go if you have the drive to make yourself do well and achieve your dream.
Listen to me, like I'm delivering a revolutionary new way of educating our young. I know it's not an epiphany and I know that what a 36 year old woman thinks would work is not the same as what a 12 year old thinks would work. Maybe though, if I can keep hold of this thought for when the time comes, I can help Small not to flounder, not to struggle, not to feel that he's being left behind in a world where everyone else knows what they'll being doing when they're 40 and he barely knows what he'll be doing next week. I hope so.