Last week, I visited my high school for the first time in what seemed like ages for “Career Day.” Boy, do I wish Career Day would have existed when I was in high school. More than 100 alumni gathered and were divided into panels based on our occupations. I landed on the “hospitality” panel, which I may propose be renamed to entrepreneurs (or even lagniappe, or people-pleasers). But, hospitality is what we went with.
The guidance counselors provided talking points they recommended we cover in our presentations. Even though I answered all of them in preparation, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be the take-away. I struggled with putting together a PowerPoint (major flashback to the “corporate” days), and ended up pulling together a 2-minute video with some of my favorite images from past events. How else do you explain to high schoolers that on any given day, I can direct traffic, babysit, wire a dying hydrangea back to life, steam linens, cut a 5-tier cake, act as a psychologist, pin bouts in my sleep, crank out timelines like there’s no tomorrow, reconcile bank statements, send invoices, sign contracts, and the list goes on?
Two event planners, a restaurant owner extraordinaire, and a food-truck operator/cane-syrup-soda creator stood in front of a seemingly uninterested group of students and explained what we did. We quickly realized our individual occupations were not that interesting to the students, so we decided to change it up. We explained that as four small business owners we chose to be in charge of our own journey. Being an entrepreneur is surely not for the faint of heart, but it opens up opportunities that allow us to push ourselves harder each day, further outside of our comfort zones, and choose the people we want to work with. It demands that we wear many hats, some we never thought we’d want (ah hum, accounting, legal, etc.).
Justin (owner of the fabulous The French Press) used a sports analogy to explain how the fast-paced life of a chef was perfectly suited for him and how his journey started with a spur-of-the-moment dishwasher gig. Collin (Viva la Waffle owner and Swamp Pop co-creator) explained how watching a partner in a law firm kick over a $25,000 copy machine taught him he wanted something other than a life in the legal field. And, Sarah (owner, Mint Julep Productions) chronicled her journey beginning with getting paid mere pennies to put on sporting events to realizing the job of event planner was choosing her rather than she choosing it.
It was as another panelist talked that I saw this poster on the opposite side of the classroom.
As I reread the poster, I had my own career day revelation or my own Oprah “ah-ha” moment. I realized that what we said every day in school and wrote at the top of our tests (stop the memories already) “God’s Servant First” was what, above all, I learned in high school. I guess the jury’s still out on how exactly I use what I learn (since it should be obvious I haven’t been out of high school for more than
5 (ok, ok) 10 years), but I hope that as I continue the journey to wherever I’m headed, I will always remember to be kind … and that hard work can and will take me wherever I want to go – something else I hoped stayed sandwiched between the students’ ears.
I’m not sure if the students took away as much as I did from career day, or even if they enjoyed our attempts to impress them with references to Anthony Bourdain, Lady GaGa, Anthony Hopkins, etc. It was nice to go back “home,” but most of all it was a beautiful reminder that the people who are part of my life are in it for reasons I may yet to fully understand. Equally as nice was the reminder that the pettiness of high school (and life in general) will fade over time, but the kindness you show(ed) others will always be remembered.