It’s graduation time. High schoolers across the land are crossing that stage and saying goodbye to the bondage of living at home with mom and dad (for the most part.) As I find myself writing in graduation cards for these new-to-the-real-world young people (wow, “young people?” that makes me sound really old) I am trying not to write the same thing they’re going to read in all the other cards they receive. And, side note, do we think they really read the cards, or at 18 are they just opening them and dumping them – looking for cash, checks or gift cards?
I find myself starting the message with the standard, “I’m so proud of you.” But, are graduation cards meant to celebrate what’s already been done – or to prepare a graduate for their future? I feel references to a brave new world coming on…
Here’s what I really want to say:
This is when it counts. College is the stuff you’ll be talking about for years – the friends you’ll make – the bad, bad decisions you’ll try to dig yourself out of. College is late nights and early mornings. It’s studying when your friends are partying. It’s partying when you should be studying. It’s feeling alone on a campus with thousands of other people who seem like they’re having the times of their lives. It’s spending your first birthday away from home without your family. College is learning to be you – without the restraint of a curfew. It’s taking off the leash and learning that sometimes it might have been good for you to be constrained. It’s learning how far you can go without one. It’s a long, steady push toward, “adulthood” and when you get there – it’s the terrifying realization that you’re supposed to know something by now. College is the first step toward realizing your parents are people, actual people, who know things and feel things, outside of you and chances are, it’s going to take until after those four years to figure that out. It’s meeting boys you might think are “the one.” It’s getting your heart broken and having nothing but your cold dorm room to comfort you. It’s getting sick and not having someone to take care of you. It’s making plans for Spring Break and saving up your weekly beer/pizza money to pay for it. It’s all these experiences combined into one long stretch of four years that whirs by in a blur. It’s over before it started. My only advice is keep your eyes open, be safe, watch out for each other, treat each other with respect, have fun, learn lots, write home (with an actual pen and paper!), write home without asking for a care package or money, take pictures (and don’t post all of them online!), make friends, be a friend and don’t get a credit card – no matter how cool the T-shirt is that they offer you.