Archived Opinion

Careers can wait; it’s time for some adventuring

Careers can wait; it’s time for some adventuring

When the text came letting us know that our daughter Hannah had arrived safely in Costa Rica, a sense of relief — mixed with pride — enveloped me. 

To state the obvious, parenting is both complicated and never-ending. You get your kids to 18 and out of high school, you feel some small sense of accomplishment. If they choose college, you do your best to help out and provide whatever guidance you can. As they enter adulthood, the role becomes more complicated. You’re not quite on the outside looking in, but it sometimes feels that way.

When do you recommend the straight line, the career path, discipline, and the acceptance of all the trappings of adulthood? That word — “trappings” — has more truth to it than many would like to admit. The lifestyle associated with adulthood in America can trap you into a cycle that some don’t see coming: a house and the ensuing debt, the need for a steady job that pays the bills, a dependable car and that debt, perhaps getting caught up on those college loans, furnishing said house, keeping up said house, etc. Once children come along, the need and the craving for stability intensifies. 

My father-in-law Bill, always the sage counselor, told my wife, Lori, this when we finally decided to buy a house, and I’ll paraphrase: “You’ll discover that it’s sometimes difficult to decide whether you own the house or the house owns you.” True that.

None of this is in and of itself bad. No, it can be wonderful, especially if you are sharing it with someone you love, in a place you want to live, and with a job that is satisfying. It just has to come at the right time.

So, when Hannah graduated from college in May 2018, we never encouraged her to immediately find that serious job that would set her on that path. It was the same for her older sister, Megan. After college Megan spent a year working as an elementary school teacher at a private school in Dubai, traveled quite a bit in that region and Southeast Asia, worked a summer leading bike tours in California, and then relocated to Denver through AmeriCorps for a year before coming back to North Carolina and landing a job that she loves in Raleigh. Get out of your comfort zone, do some “adventuring.” All the while she was working and supporting herself.

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And so we circle back around to that text we received Sunday night from Hannah. She had a plan for doing some traveling but needed to save some money. She came home to Waynesville and worked two jobs to make that happen, finally departing this past Sunday for stint at a surf camp on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. She can’t surf (yet), but she is a certified yoga teacher, is a helluva cook, is nearly fluent in Spanish and has a fantastic work ethic (if a proud dad does say so himself).

So why would seemingly sane parents be so excited that their middle child has set herself up for what is basically a subsistence existence for at least six months, a trip that could — who knows — turn her into a permanent expat who may never return to the states? For Lori and me it’s obvious, although perhaps not for everyone: adventure, excitement, the unknown. It’s something we have always admired and something that we know is key to a satisfying life, something we have tried to pass on to our children. A lifetime of work and a career will be there whenever you are ready for it. 

I went to a bookstore the day before Hannah left looking for a book of Mary Oliver’s poems. The Pulitzer Prize winning poet had died a few weeks ago, and reading her praises and going back over some of her poems rekindled my admiration for her work. When I gave the book to Hannah, she squealed with excitement. She too had read the obituaries, thought she would like her stuff, but had not yet read any of it. 

So as for why Lori and I believe this adventure is just what our daughter needs and deserves, I’ll let the poet explain, and wish my daughter well in her adventuring. From “The Summer Day:”


I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?


(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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