I hugged my parents, told them I would call them soon, turned and started the long walk back to my new dorm room. We had unpacked all of my clothes and boxes and they were heading home. I was heading back to meet the other guys on my dorm floor and get settled in the room that would be my home for the next eight months.
The campus quad was a crazy mess of students and parents coming and going carrying trollies full of luggage and boxes. A stereo system here, a bunk bed there. When I left my parents, I could see that my mother wanted to cry, but she kept stone faced. She had been through this with my brothers. I was excited about my future and leaving home, but still a bundle of nerves. I walked past a maze of people going a million different directions to get to my dorm entrance and punched the elevator button. Maintenance workers had spent the summer painting and getting campus looking its finest, but the inside of the elevator still smelled of sweat and stale beer. When the elevator let me off on my floor, I reminded myself that I would be fine after I met a few people and started classes.
I laugh now at the memory. Two of my kids have gone off to a college, a third, if all goes right, will go next year. I live now vicariously through others, like my nephews: two head back this month to college for their second and fourth years and a third heads off for the first time. My college memories feel like a lifetime ago and they are, but I still can’t help but think about the advice I gave my kids and tell anyone heading off for the first time.
- Work hard but play hard too.
- Focus on getting good grades, but never forget about learning for learning’s sake. You’re learning now for a career and a full and productive life.
- Watch your step, lock your door, tell people where you’re going, if going out at night, walk with others, be safe, but take risks and do something that you’ve never done before.
- Study, but eat well, get your sleep, relax and get out and meet people.
- Make school your priority, but be social.
Yes, it’s one big contradiction, but keep them in line and four years later you’ll come out with a diploma, hopefully a profession, and be a better person for it.