The College Goodbye
It can’t be described it can only be understood through experience. Having heard it described many times in my life I thought I comprehended. I thought I was prepared…I was not. It all went by so fast. As if it took 18 years of non-stop labor to make Thanksgiving Dinner and everyone sat down and ate it in one bite.
Imagine taking every emotion you ever felt at every event in your child’s life that caused you joy, pain, anxiety and overwhelming pride and combining those in to a sixty second short. Experiencing every “first” in a one minute flashback video while Louis Armstrong sings “What a Wonderful World”. First step, bike without training wheels, kindergarten, first dance recital, sleep-over, volleyball try-outs and making the team, driver’s license, trip with a passport and without you, first date, first job and prom. Now throw in first swim, snow skiing and the time they turned off the lights 800’ underground at Carlsbad Caverns. Think, riding Space Mountain with no slow upward climb, only a constantly accelerating downward fall with G-force twists and turns in total darkness and no comprehensible bottom. The scariest environment imaginable, Got it? If there’s a tear in your eye and a pit in your stomach right now you are about 10% down the path of understanding.
We flew to California this week to help Sophie move in to her freshman dorm. This was the result of an 18 year journey of anticipation, preparation and dedication that Heather and I had a front-row seat for and Sophie worked hard to attain. The trip included 11 college tours, 6 college fairs, 28 high school teachers, advisors and counselors, a resume, letters of recommendation, calculating a GPA about a thousand times. There was rigor, sports, volunteering, the Musical, Junior Trip, Senior Project, summer jobs, the essay rough draft, the essay re-write, the final essay. 8 applications, scholarship searches, Testing, Testing, Testing and I’m leaving out 15 other stops along the way so that you don’t fall asleep while reading this. At the end of this long journey we arrived at the final destination which led to a University selection over 1200 miles away, with a 2-hour time difference, Disneyland a five minute drive and the beach just 30 minutes away. Basically every parents dream…a great study environment with few distractions.
Sophie’s new school has done an incredible job of making her feel comfortable, safe and that she is destined to be there. She won the proverbial lottery in two kind and considerate roommates and a corner dorm with two windows looking out on palm trees and the Anaheim Hills. Her roommate’s parents are gracious, caring and all live less than an hour away. This gave me the first peace of mind since arrival. I have a great friend that lives North less than two hours and he and his family met us for dinner adding to my feeling that a safety net was not too far away. I was slowly settling in to reality .
Into the Abyss…It was a beautiful ceremony with speeches about friendship and acceptance, The Four Pillars and support and the next stage of life and adulthood. I heard it but I wasn’t really listening. This was followed by a candle lighting ceremony as dusk set in with the piazza slowly filling with a soft glow as each student shared their flame. It was time to say goodbye and send our beautiful daughter off for higher learning. My perfect speech about responsibility and good decisions and how proud we are, hard work and study habits and watching out for each other erupted in to “we love you” and the tightest hug imaginable. Words wouldn’t come, oxygen left my lungs replaced by tears.
The Bottom Line: It’s been three days and as my composure returns, I can finally share the perfect speech with you Sophie…We Love You.