Monday, May 22, 2006

Welcome to the real world

This is a photo of aunt Sara giving Beau the vote of confidence. He is coming to work in our auto parts business. No graduation ceremony, no summer trip to back-pack through Europe. Beau has basically flunked out of college. Not that we were surprised, he never professed to wanting to be there anyway. He wanted to join the military after high school. No way, we said. We sent you to a wonderful Jesuit college prep school, a 30 minute commute from home. No way. You are going to college. We insisted he put in a few years before making a decision about the military. Eventually, his desire for the service waned, but the interest in higher education stalled as well.

At first he thought he might major in philosophy. Then it was biological science because that's where his grades were best. I talked up architecture or the idea of a degree in international business. He should learn Chinese, I said, and go into importing after-market auto parts. The pull to come into our business was always there, but I tried to paint pictures of other possibilities. After all, we owned a salvage yard, nothing too exciting there. He seemed interested, but school was a struggle just as it always had been. He's never been a good student, his grades were always below average, but his talent for introspection and wry commentary demonstrated a strong intellect which I thought that should translate into good grades. You're just not trying hard enough, I maintained.

He discovered last summer that he had a talent for drawing. I encouraged it. I just wanted him to find his passion. He began taking art classes. His drawings were technical. He was not drawing to express emotion, but rather, drawing to capture exactness. Then he picked up the drums. Again, it wasn't the expression he was after, it was the ability to master the drums as tools. Since a toddler he has had a curiosity for the mechanics of things. He was interested only in how things worked. Anything that had to be assembled, I handed to him along with a screwdriver.

Why then should I be surprised that university was not a good fit for him? He would have excelled in leaning a specific trade or skill. But we were insistent that he attend college. Of course, Robert, more than me, saw college as a "finishing school", a place where bright young people mingle and make connections and lifelong friends while learning enough to widen their horizons a little, and have a lot of fun before the hard reality of earning a living begins. Robert had a lot of difficulty in school, but as it turned out, the knowledge needed to run his business comes from the old school: learn as you go. Plus, Robert has always harbored a desire for his sons to come into the business. If they found another path, if they chose to become doctors or lawyers that would be fine, but the opportunity to build on an existing business is a fortunate one. They would be lucky to have it.

That's how Beau sees it now after a few seasons in college. He's had time to weigh his abilities and interests. Joining the special ops unit or becoming a video game tester (they make lots of money, don't you know?!) seems unrealistic to him now. A stable family business with lots of growing potential looks mighty appealing at his mature age of 21. He is ready to get serious.

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