Will you stay, or will you go?


It is decision time for recent high school graduates in Ogle County.

Many are off to college, but some are unsure as to their next move. Get a job? Join the military? Set up a room in the parent’s basement and hope they don’t notice that you are basically bumming off of them?

It is true that while plenty of teens have things pretty well mapped out, quite a few don’t. That job delivering pizza is great, but it is not exactly a career. Helping around the family farm is nice, but it might not be what they want to do with their life.

And that is the catch – it is your life. What you choose to do it up to you. You can run away and join the carnival if you would like, although the dental plan leaves a lot to be desired. College, trade school, the military, hitchhiking to Portland, Ore. – it’s up to you.

As those of us with some years under our belts understand, the first 18 years are merely a warm up. Life can take you in some amazing directions now if you let it.

Some people choose to stay close to home their entire lives, and there is nothing wrong with that. Many go to college, graduate and come right back. Some never leave at all.

It always fascinates me when I read an obituary and a person who lived into their 90s never lived more than 30 miles from where they were born.

It fascinates me because I am a mover. I lived in the same house from the age of 4 to 18. I have lived in countless dorms, apartments, houses and condos in a bunch of different states since then.

I moved back to my home state in 1987 to start college, leaving permanently nine years later. Since then, the longest I have ever lived in a state is here in Illinois – seven years.

I think there are a few reasons for that. First, joining the military right out of high school taught me that life was not about staying put. I was in Texas, then Guam and then Arkansas. Change was coming, whether I liked it or not.

I also chose a career – journalism – where moving is important if you want to progress. That has meant newsroom jobs in several states. The longest I have ever held a single job as an adult is the five years I was the editor of a daily newspaper in California.

And for the record, I am celebrating three years at The Ogle County Life this month.

Finally, I am a seeker. I am always looking for the next thing. I like to know what is over that hill. When my wife got a job in Chicago, we didn’t even think too hard about it before we jumped at the chance and moved halfway across the country.

Life is an adventure, and I want to experience it. I love riding my motorcycle on roads I have never ridden and seeing things I have never seen. Each new experience makes me the person I am.

But people like me, the tumbleweeds, we need the rocks who stay put to counter balance us. If we were all constantly on the move, there would be no sense of history or place in this country. There would be no real foundation.

So, the moves young people make do have an impact that will ripple through their lives. Be it a seeker or a person who stays, there is no wrong move.

Well, living in your parent’s basement into your 30s would probably not be great.