We either make it or we don't. We know of our success by the fact that we have arrived. We have fulfilled our goal and have set foot upon the next stepping-stone of our voyage. Our footing must be certain and secure, as a small error can cause us to lose our footing and cast us out among the grave uncertainties that lie just outside our plotted path. Planning our passage through the developmental stages of life has all the euphoric possibilities and rewards of celestial navigation; it requires skill, tools and planning, and a certain sense of where we currently are.
Nothing can bring us greater elation than reaching a carefully planned goal that we have struggled to achieve, while challenging the obstacles and roadblocks that impeded our path. Getting from high school to college is very much like sailing the open seas without the security of the sight of land. It requires the skill that we have gained over our too few years, as we have no way to know what the destination will be like until we arrive. Yet, by being prepared we can remove much of the uncertainty and take much of the destination that we expect to find with us. Our task is to simply find the destination within ourselves. Gerrard states that, "Hardly anything on earth is as exhilarating as sailing into a new harbor at sunrise after a nighttime passage offshore across open water" (248). As we prepare our journey into our future, we must carefully navigate our culture, society, peer pressure, and traditions, often alone and in the dark of night. The exhilaration of reaching our destination will be ours alone, and only we have the skill to successfully find our unique path to the dawning of a new opportunity.
Putting this skill to work will require the careful management of the tools that will we need to be able to formulate a workable plan, as we move across the uncharted waters of growth. For the high school student making their journey to college, this planning began years earlier as they begin to collect the tools of academics. While the ocean navigator has the hardware of a compass, sextant, and chronometer the student will carry tools that are more abstract in nature, but no less concrete. The student will need the skill of critical thinking. Have they learned to question, analyze, and criticize, without emotion or malice Have they been properly tempered in the cauldron of education to accept that knowledge may be "contingent, ambiguous, and tentative" (Bean 18) Has their imagination learned to make a leap and connect two seemingly unconnected dots Gerard speaks of these tools as possessing "a magical quality and were treated with the reverent care usually reserved for sacred relics" (258). The navigator cares for his tools by maintaining them in "elaborately carved and inlaid wooden boxes", as a way to highlight their status and importance. The academician cares for their tools by constant use, as if oiling and cleaning them daily to keep them ready for use on a moments notice. Just as the navigator hears the sound of the waves and the smell of the seas to alert them if they have gone off course, the academic will hear the conversations, the media, and the world around them to sense if they are still on solid ground and in line with their destination.
Plotting a course to our next destination along life's journey requires that we have a secure sense of where we are starting from, and where we