When I graduated from high school I was more eager to escape the confines of my parents’ house than I was to embrace higher education. I proved this when I received my first semester’s report card, which was awful, and prompted my bewildered Dad to ask a poignant question: “What do you want to do with your life?”
The truth is, at 18, I didn’t know. Few do. I had only looked at a couple schools and randomly chose to pursue a photography degree at a junior college in tiny Powell, Wyoming, based more on its location than its practicality. In my mind, it was so far off the beaten path that I could truly embrace my newfound independence. Apparently, I was not ready for this.
Freshmen in college often fall into two camps. First, there are those who embrace academics, have a rough idea of what they want to do with their lives and have little trouble transitioning to life after curfews. Then there are the rest of us.
The rest of us have trouble explaining what we are studying and why and, if we’re from out of state like I was, the reason we chose a particular school in the first place. In the end, I was happy with the college I attended, but I still couldn’t provide a valid reason why I was there, except that I wanted to be in the middle of nowhere.
So there I was, wasting time and money in the middle of nowhere and quickly realizing that home wasn’t that bad after all. And at least a handful of high school graduates donning caps and gowns over the next few weeks will come to a similar realization.
It may take a few weeks, or a few months, but at some point a few of you will survey your dorm room while heating up a Hot Pocket for breakfast and conclude you really appreciated your life in high school. You’ll remember when the clothes, now strewn across the floor, were once magically washed and folded. And you’ll remember when food wasn’t prepackaged in boxes. And at some point, you might call your parents and explain why your world is falling apart and you’re starving and you have no direction. You’ll realize that all the advice you ignored when you were eager to strike out on your own may come in handy now.
I’m lucky. My parents never stopped giving me advice, even when I griped about it and said I didn’t need it. I still joke with my dad about how he largely chose my profession for me.
After taking three years to get a two-year degree in photography, I decided to transfer to the University of Montana. While walking the Missoula campus, Dad asked me the same question he had for years, “What do you want to do?” I explained my grandiose plan to write science fiction novels and told him I should pursue a creative writing degree. Instead of dismissing the idea, he suggested I broaden my options. A few hours later, I ended up meeting with an advisor at the School of Journalism. A few years after that, I landed my first real job covering politics for the Associated Press in North Dakota.
There’s nothing wrong with a creative writing degree, but in hindsight, I’m glad I listened to my parents. It turns out they were actually giving me advice for my betterment, not just to be annoying.
As some point, most young stubborn college students realize this, but it takes way too long. So here’s some advice for college freshmen. Whenever you think about how great and independent you are, answer this one question: When is the last time you sent your parents a care package?
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.