My son got his first college acceptance yesterday to the University of Pittsburgh. This was a well earned acceptance and he worked for every bit of it.
Of course, I am incredibly proud and grateful for all the factors that helped smooth out any bumps – some of them large ones – along the way to keep this part of his journey moving in such a positive direction.
Not to make this about me, but I haven’t fully processed yet the reality of not seeing him on a daily basis in 8 short months. It is the right thing, for sure – all those well written tomes about the unnaturalness of having a teenage son and his father living together ring true. It’s time for him to start this next chapter of his life and it’s time for me to take a small step toward the next chapter of mine.
That being said, I have been wrestling with this restless feeling since yesterday about this and haven’t quite figured it out – until this morning.
Don’t get me wrong – education is critically important. I would like to impress upon him that education is not confined (nor often even truly represented) by seeing your name on a diploma. I want him to go to college and really find the joy in learning about something that makes him think, debate and feel. I also want him to have those experiences that he will remember for a long time to come – good or bad as long as the bad ones are the type he can laugh about with friends twenty years ago and not the type that change his life forever.
At the same time, I want him to know that it’s ok to not know. It’s ok to be overwhelmed. It’s ok to feel lost or not quite as if you belong. It’s ok to question or to change your mind – again and again and again. I think we live in such a “milestone society” sometimes that we are overly focused on the “end game” and not the game itself. Those of lucky enough to go to college, often graduate with this expectation that “real life” has to start.
It’s all real. I mean – let me be honest – I’m not interested in having my 30 year old live in my basement. We need to work and struggle and figure things out. We need to act. But at the same time, it’s ok to allow ourselves to breathe a bit to figure things out. I am still figuring myself out. The truth is that some people may be figuring things out their whole life.
When we send our kids to college, it is often with the expectation that this is their time to “figure things out”. Yes – there probably is not a better time where you can do so without the added pressures that come along with balancing a job, family, loans etc. (not to say that elements of those don’t make themselves present during school, either). It’s just that it doesn’t have to be so black and white. You can have a job and figure things out at the same time. You can have a relationship and figure things out at the same time. You can raise a family and still figure things out as you go. In fact, how else does this really happen?
I would love for my son to go to college with the expectation that in four years, he will develop his ability to ask more questions rather than set the expectation that he has all the answers. I see this at work every day – and quite frankly, even outside of work – this propensity for always having an answer or opinion to something. What is wrong with saying “I don’t know – I need to think about it”? I know if we had more of that, we would have more valuable conversations and a lot less divisiveness.
So, my hope for him is that he enters college with the mind of the warrior entering the unknown and he exits it with the mind of the warrior entering the unknown – but with more passion and skills to figure it out.
Until next time,