I had an interesting discussion recently with a young lady who is a year out of high school, and still trying to figure out what to do with her life.
Just a year from my 20-year high school reunion, she got me in a weird place right now, as I've been having a lot of retrospective thoughts of late.
Initially we talked a lot about career and education choices, but eventually the conversation turned to quality of life.
This morning I interviewed a vice-president of a substantial oil firm. It's on days like this I really regret not getting my engineering degree. This man is the same age as I am, and from a small Saskatchewan town like I am. He went into engineering as I did and at the same time. He graduated from university the year after I would have. Now he's probably worth a few million bucks, and is a vice-president and senior engineer for a firm worth $11 billion.
That ship has long since sailed for me. There's also a lot more to life than a high profile job. But there were other little vignettes I passed onto this young lady. For instance, my sister is four-and-a-half years younger than I am. She is also a nurse. Her becoming a nurse taught me something about life.
It took the financial support of my mom, stepdad, dad, her working summers, and me and my wife to get her through school. Mom had poured most of her resources into me, and since I had flunked engineering, I couldn't really pay for my sister's schooling, as had been the plan. But in her third year, I paid for half her tuition, because no one else could. It was either I write that cheque, or she doesn't finish her degree.
During her summers, she worked at fly-in fishing camps up north, where she totally fell in love with fishing.
When she graduated, she could have gone to work immediately as a graduate nurse for $19 an hour and made $10,000 over that last summer.
There was such a shortage of nurses in Saskatchewan, my wife couldn't get holidays. Indeed, for most of her career, she could not get her full holiday allotment. So the idea of my sister going up north to fish for the summer while getting paid $10 an hour instead of taking a nursing job right away infuriated both me and my wife.
For my sister, it meant one more year of the best fishing of her life. To me, it was a cop-out.
Years later, I realized she was right to go fishing, and I was wrong.
Indeed, she just got back from another adventure, crossing one off her bucket list, as it were. She and her boyfriend drove to and from Inuvik, N.W.T. in less than two weeks, just for the heck of it. I wish I could have done that.
So this is what I told the young lady. Go do stuff. Do it now, before you are tied down like I am, before you have the job and the kids and mortgage. It's a huge burden for us to drive four-and-a-half hours to Saskatoon with two young kids. I can't fathom driving to Banff with them. We used to live eight hours from the Rockies. Why did we only go camping there once?
I wish I had spent more time at the lake, more time camping, more time going places and seeing things and more time taking my kids and wife to all the above. Life's too short to stay at home.
It gave her a lot to think about. I know I still do.
Brian Zinchuk is editor of Pipeline News. He can be reached at brian.zinc...@sasktel.net