The Crusader Newspaper Group

Nothing can defeat the power of a made-up mind

Vernon Williams

When I was a freshman at Gary Roosevelt High School, counselors met with students individually to explore our career interests. One by one, we paraded into counseling offices and laid out visions of ourselves as productive adults in the world of work.

 The idea was to make sure certain academic plans addressed those needs. Most students, whether they put a little, much, or no thought into the process, simply winged it. They just wanted to do it and get it over as quickly as possible.

 Not me. For me it was an opportunity to share with an authority figure my grand design on my future. Nerdy as it may sound, I actually put together an outline and notes to prepare for the one-on-one session.

 Everything being in alphabetical order back in the day, almost all of my classmates went ahead of me into their private career exploration session. Observing them afterwards, the ordeal seemed uneventful for most. 

 Most gave predictable responses. They expressed interest in medicine, law, business, architecture, sales and marketing, trades like plumbing and electronics; auto mechanic, secretary, teacher, public safety, the military, or work in the steel mills that lined the Northwest Indiana lakeshore—and all were attractive career choices for some. 

 Of course scattered in between were those who wanted to become movie stars, all-star professional athletes, idolized recording artists and high fashion models or designers. Ninth graders have a license to dream dreams.

 Counselors finally worked their way to the other end of the alphabet. It was my turn, and I couldn’t wait to unveil my blueprint for success.

 I sat anxiously in his office as my counselor nodded and gave me the proverbial platform. I unfolded notes and spoke with the resolve of a young man on a mission. He asked, “What do you want to do with your career life Mr. Williams?”

 Without hesitation, I answered: “I want to be an author, a newspaper reporter, a TV talk show host, to own my own public relations and advertising company, to write and produce plays, to be an on-air radio personality, a poet and to give back to my people, as a soldier in the movement for Black folks’ justice and freedom.” 

I thought well of myself in the moment, pocketing my notes, as I sat back in the chair in the counseling office – grinning from ear to ear – braced to field the inevitable onslaught of accolades certain to flow my way.

 Instead, there was an uneasy quiet, deafening silence. I noticed the counselor wasn’t reflecting my ebullient spirit. He slowly leaned forward and asked, “Are you done?” Confused and finally sensing things had not gone as well as planned, I hesitantly responded, “Yes sir.”

 He chastised me for not taking career exploration seriously. He told me that no other interview was as “all over the place” as mine. He said he was very disappointed and would give me one more chance to decide what I really wanted to pursue. 

 Though far more disappointed at the outcome of the meeting than he, I knew it was pointless to reschedule or even try to explain the truth that my goals were exactly as I described…word for word. 

 The counselor’s scathing assessment of my plan was troubling but not dissuasive. With the help of the Lord, each one of my articulated objectives was met at some point in life.  

But the incident made me wonder…what about people more easily discouraged? How many give up because no one shared their enthusiasm? As the poem asks, what happens to a dream deferred?

 In all the wisdom imparted to aspirants of all ages, arguably the most important is not to allow unfeeling or misunderstanding thoughts and expressions of others to take the wind from your sails. 

 Words can form weapons or words can provide tools. Whether words will be used to destroy or build relies on the resolve of the recipient. The capacity to bounce back and transform stumbling blocks into stepping stones can make all the difference!

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].

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