It has been a few years since I walked out of high school on the Gold Coast for the last time, but I will never forget the stress of that final year of school.
Somewhere between the partying and the craziness of Year 12, we were meant to decide what we wanted to do with the rest of our lives, and honestly I had no idea.
And I can’t help but feel for the thousands of Victorian Year 12 students who are going through that feeling right now, who feel as if their lives will change depending on what uni offers they get or what job prospects are out there.
Teachers have a way of making kids feel their destiny begins and ends in Year 12, as if doing good or bad in the test would mean you spend the next 50 years as a barrister or a barista, or be the difference between becoming a doctor or a delinquent.
That was great for the students who had a clear idea of where they wanted to go, but I had little interest in what was on offer at school and could not see myself heading to uni and getting a degree.
Because I did not have a clear goal, my grades were pretty average at best and I spent more of my energy drinking and partying with my mates and causing mischief than hitting the books.
To the teachers who tried their best to get me on the right track I must have looked like a lost cause, and back then I probably was.
But looking back at that final year, and seeing where everyone is now, I don’t think I have a single friend who actually went into the career they envisioned in Year 12.
One mate joined the military, and after a change of careers he now makes close to a six-figure salary for a telecommunications company.
Another really wanted to be a writer. Now he spends his days as an international currency trader.
One, like me, had no idea what he wanted to be. Now he is a nurse at one of the biggest hospitals in Queensland.
Another (not me) really wanted to be a journalist. After a few years of spinning yarns for a major Aussie media company, he gave it up to work for a beer consultancy company in Germany — yes, that is a job that exists and he loves it.
As for me, I did not decide to be a journalist until I was well into my 20s. Despite needing to go back to do the study that most aspiring journos did right after high school, I still found my way into the industry.
For all Year 12 leavers out there who are worrying about if they get that offer from Melbourne University or Monash that they wanted, or are still stressing if they don’t know what they are doing next year, I say relax.
Life is a journey. You might find yourself in a few unexpected and wonderful places along the way before you get to where you are going.
Barclay White is a News journalist.