My son and I are attending college orientation for his upcoming freshman year. We visited the most beautiful campus yesterday and are about to head off to day two.
I am so jealous.
I took the more..difficult path to obtaining a college degree. It also took me ten years to do so. As a single, young mother.
As I was walking the campus grounds yesterday, and touring the dorms, I couldn’t help but be wistful.
I don’t regret my path. I just sometimes kinda wish I had experienced other things in life too.
Regardless, I realized some things yesterday, and wanted to be sure I help put my son on the right path. However, after spending two days with him already, just one on one, I realized that he is a teenage boy. Surprise! Which means he doesn’t give a shit really, of what I have to say right now (maaaaaaybe he will ten years from now). Soooo, I wrote him a letter. I thought I would share it with you.
To my son,
It is early in the morning and you are sleeping. Actually, it is not that early, but of course you are sleeping. You always sleep. In the car. On the plane. In class. On the couch. On the floor. At your desk. At my desk. ….
We are going to the second day of college orientation today.
College orientation. WOW. My first child is going to college. Not really sure how I feel about it. Excited. Nervous. Sad. I am sure you have a lot of emotions too…though you don’t say it. Maybe cause you are just tired. And sleepy.
I am writing you a letter so that you can cherish some advice I have for you. And by cherish I mean that you may actually read it before you throw it away. Maybe. If I tell you this stuff, you will nod your head and be doing one of two things;
1: be thinking of how to deflect, argue or explain away what I have to say,
2: be wondering how much longer I am going to talk before you can close your eyes and go to sleep,
Either way, a letter may give your poor brain more of a chance to absorb just a fraction of what I have to say. Maybe.
You are about to enter a very important stage in life. It is a game changer. And as I watched you interact with other people yesterday at the first day of orientation, I realized that I did a piss poor job of preparing you for this moment. So let me cram 18 years of advice into a couple of pages of paper so that I can be rest assured that you will succeed ….survive…. make it through to the other side. What is the other side? Well my son, that depends on how you do in the next four years. Let me get back to that.
Let’s start, shall we?
1. You need to learn how to do your own laundry. Here it is in a nutshell; hot water for whites, cold water for all other colors, immediately get things out of both the washer and the dryer unless you want wrinkled, mold smelly clothes. The key? Do not flip your underwear inside out and wear them twice cause you haven’t done laundry.
2. You need to learn how to cook. Here it is in a nutshell; buy cereal, milk, pasta, pasta sauce, lunchmeat and bread. Follow the directions on each package (I am fairly confident you know how to make a sandwich…I think). The key? You won’t have jack for money so don’t even think about hitting the Starbucks and Subway we saw at the campus yesterday and then call me begging for money. COOK.
3. You are SO smart. You really are. Book smart that is. I am so proud of what you can accomplish when you set your mind to it. When you are awake. SO SET YOUR MIND TO ACCOMPLISH GREAT things. This is important son. Whatever we believe we can accomplish- we do. Trust me…I am living proof of this (and I ain’t so smart when it comes to book stuff). The key here? Because of how smart you are, and what I know you can (and will) accomplish when you set your mind to it…..see number 4.
4. Plan ahead. NO EXCUSES. You get your syllabi at the beginning of each class. The beginning. Sooooo….like this means you know EXACTLY what the professor wants and when. Genius. No excuses son. None. I will not accept an excuse from you on why you got less than a B. Is that too much pressure for you? Great, then let’s not spend 20k a semester and instead enroll you in the local community college. Is that too harsh on you? Great, then let’s have you take care of your own job, housing, food, education 100% on your own…. as I did. The key? This is YOUR life and YOUR responsibility…however if I am funding it for the next four years (IF you maintain a B average) then that means you do not get to SIT ON YOUR ASS, EAT OUT, AND PARTY. This is still work.
5. Have fun. Yes, I know I just told you that your life is over as you know it, but here is the thing about planning ahead and having no excuses; when you get your work done, there is this huge relief and weightlessness feeling- enjoy it. Go out with friends. Enjoy this beautiful BEACH campus. Join clubs. Go to parties. JUST BE BACK AND GET SOME REAL SLEEP (not the kind that occurs on the desks in class) and GET YOUR WORK DONE FIRST. The key? Have ‘responsible’ fun but always let number 4 above haunt you…
6. Be responsible at work. Yes a job. You are paying for your own food and gas for your car. That too harsh for you? See number four above. You have always surprised me with your awesome work ethic; do not let the freedom of college (the noose of your mother has been loosened….) change this. The key? Don’t forget who you really are.
7. Take care of yourself. Eat three times a day (food that YOU cook). Drink water. Stay away from the stuff that most of us people do in college (you know, the plants that people smoke and the 21 and over drinks). Your body will thank you in your thirties (and on) and you will be able to focus better- when you are awake. The key here? If it is illegal don’t mess with it- I am NOT bailing you out of jail.
8. Girls are evil. They are, trust me. They will lie, cheat, beat you, burn you, taunt you, back stab you, and curse you. Just evil. You will be infected with a terrible disorder that poisons your brain and makes you forget things….like homework, a job, going to class, calling your mom…. If you must mingle with girls then go mingle with the cute little group we saw yesterday. The ones that are all enrolling in a monastery after they finish college. They might be alright. On second thought, skip that group too. All of them are filled with diseases and can kill you. Seriously. Let’s move on.
9. Be kind. Be honest. Do not get wrapped up into any group (or influenced by even one person) to do unkind, dishonest things to others. Remember- what you give to this world you get back. This includes how you treat people, the effort you put into life, work and relationships. The key here? Follow the simple cliché of, ‘treat others how you want to be treated’.
10. Number 10 is one of the most important ones. It is essential on your path to this future life of yours. Crucial. One of the most important pieces of advice I can give you: YOU. DON’T. KNOW. EVERYTHING. Yikes….I know right now you are reeling in shock and thinking, “whatever mom. I know what I know and that is more than you know”. Yep, I am sure. But here is the thing….it is OK to respond to someone with, “You know, I am not sure about that”, rather than your usual attempt to either a) make up some shit that sounds right because you want to show your smarts, or b) tell them some story about how you know this to be fact, or c) just state something because, well, you just can. No one, and I mean no one likes a ‘know it all’. Let’s say that you actually DO, 100% know something to be true and another person is saying the opposite. Here is an IDEA of how to respond, “Humm..I understand it differently, but perhaps things have changed”, this opens the door for them to maybe ASK you what your take on it is, because not everyone wants your opinion. I know- your heart is stopping right now. NOT EVERYONE WANTS YOUR OPINION. Just an FYI. So…the key? BE OPEN MINDED SON.
I am so excited to see you on the other side. If you make it. Remember that B average thing? I am not kidding…one semester, with less than that, will have you right back home, at the community college, paying ME rent and your own way- 100%.
This is what the other side can look like,
1: an emotional tear filled graduation from the beautiful campus we saw yesterday and your mom helping you to transition into your own future life (if you even need my help at this point) where you get a grown up job, meet a girl that isn’t going to kill you, and perhaps provide a grandchild or two (many, many, many years from today)
2: a tear filled reunion (your tears, not mine) with your old bedroom (maybe…. could be the game room couch as I think I have plans for your room), where you have to be home by 10pm, go to the community college (which is a great school by the way-I am taking classes there in the fall…we could take classes together!), have a job, PAY ME RENT, pay your own cell phone bill, buy and cook your own food, do your own laundry, pay the insurance on your car and perhaps, maybe, in three times the amount of time it would have taken you with option 1, put together a future that includes a grown up job, a non-lethal girl and some grandchildren (many, many, many years from today)
This is your choice. How exciting huh?! IT IS ALL ABOUT YOU SON.
I love you so much. I am HERE for you. I promise, no matter which direction you go, I will always still be here for you. Even if you do have to pay me rent. It would be exciting to take classes together…..
PS- you really need to start washing your hair too. It just doesn’t smell right. On second thought, those disease-filled-killer-girls do not like your smelly hair and yellow teeth so don’t worry about personal hygiene.