Finding the right path
Sometimes, when you grow up in the North Country, it’s easy to feel pigeonholed — like there’s only a few futures available to you.
Clinton County native Justin Trombly wrote about this in a 2019 column for the Tampa Bay Times: “You can never really escape Dannemora. I would know.”
His words no doubt ring true to many of those who lived their formative years in rural areas, whether here or elsewhere.
“The region is sprawling and rural, home to most of the state’s Adirondack Park. For a lot of young people, it’s not a place with opportunity,” he wrote. ” … in a place where the world doesn’t seem so big, there’s plenty of space to find meaning in life’s little moments. But it’s easy for people to choke on low expectations. When you’re torn between the simpler life that’s laid out for you and the temptation to bolt and find something fresh, it jades you.”
He describes how, in Clinton County, there’s a path already laid out: “You graduate high school and maybe attend one of the local colleges. Then you find a steady job at one of the area’s few large employers — like Clinton Correctional — and hunker down near family.”
Here in the Tri-Lakes area, there are a few paths that kids are encouraged to go down, too, such as health care and care for people with disabilities, law enforcement, sports, hospitality as well as corrections.
These are wonderful paths for those who choose them. They’re not-so-wonderful paths for those who feel like they are the only opportunities.
Educators can help students broaden their horizons. Parents, friends and entire communities can do that, too.
It’s not only about showing kids that there are more opportunities out there than they may see right now, but also encouraging the qualities that could help them achieve whatever lifestyle they want. Not every child is going to be president of the United States – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with simply striving for whatever job will provide a comfortable lifestyle — but having grit, being determined, showing persistence and working hard can lead to some great opportunities.
Another important thing to remember: A person’s career path is rarely linear.
Last week, Enterprise Sports Editor Parker O’Brien wrote about a Saranac Lake native who reached high, followed his dreams and succeeded. Kevin Morgan, who attended Saranac Lake High School — and whose parents both played rugby — made his debut as a professional rugby player with a national team at the age of 27. After failing to make the league after college — and though he had his doubts about whether he would ever make it –he continued to play rugby while working in broadcasting and videography, before finally going pro. He joins a long list of locals who have achieved great success in sports.
This should serve as just the latest reminder: The world is big, much bigger than it may seem here, and there’s so many futures available to our children. (Honestly, this goes for adults, too: It’s never too late to change careers or go back to school.)
Go boldly into the future you want, not the one you think you should have. Know that your friends and neighbors in the North Country will be here cheering you on. Let this environment be an asset, not something that confines you. Whether your actions lead to success or failure, every risk comes with a learning experience that will help make you a better, more knowledgeable, more resilient person – and, ultimately, someone better prepared for whatever challenges lie ahead.