06 January 2015

Dear College Freshmen

Greetings from winter break--it's fantastic to see you! I worried about you all semester, my heart breaking as I read your September tweets, so full of longing for family and friends as you struggled to adjust to an entirely new life. My stomach churned as I followed your transition to full-time studenthood, complete with entirely too many accounts of parties and sketchy situations. I crossed my fingers as you began finals, and smiled at the pictures of your giddy reunions.

I am so happy you survived!

Now I'm going to tell you a secret: College isn't the most important thing you will ever do. I don't know what the most important thing will be, because life is a series of events strung together, sometimes deliberately, sometimes desperately. You can have the next four years mapped out and it can all fall apart in four months. For some of you it already has, and I want you to trust me when I say it's going to be okay.

Most of you are eighteen years old, adults only in the eyes of the law. You're stuck in an uneasy place between your parents' imagining and your own creation, and it's making all of us twitchy. As a mother, I feel confident in telling you to ignore us.

Your parents love you with a depth and breadth that is unfathomable. It's like first love to the nth degree. The problem is, when you create a human being you tend to get over-invested. Sometimes the line of delineation blurs and we forget that you are a separate, fully formed individual whose thoughts, dreams, and voting preferences may be different than ours. We look at you as a vessel, waiting to be filled with inspiration, education, and clearly superior Democratic principles. Now is a good time to hold up a mirror to show us our true reflection, and go confidently into the future!

Except I don't really mean that last part. How can you go confidently when this is all new? I hope you're making mistakes, and it would be awesome if you learned something from the process (please, please, especially the ones that harm you), because you aren't supposed to know everything yet. And if you've decided that your university, or the college experience in general, isn't right for you then pat yourself on the back for figuring it out so quickly. You just made a savvy business decision to save 20/30/40 grand while you calculate your next move!

I'm so excited to see what you're going to do next, and, if I'm lucky, for many years to come. I hope your journey is as hilarious, heartbreaking, joyous, scary, and unexpected as mine has been so far. Now go do the most important thing of your life--live it, and make it uniquely, unequivocally your own.