We were in Boston for Parent's Weekend, visiting our daughter Katie, who is a senior this year. Most seniors don't have parents visit for Parent's Weekend - after 3 years in college, it seems kind of silly to be the wide-eyed visitors, which we really weren't. But Katie wanted us to meet her friends, some of them sorority sisters, some not - and we wanted to see our little girl, of course...only she's not a little girl anymore, in any sense of the word. Being on her turf, with her in charge - it made me both proud and sentimental at the same time. She made all the dinner and brunch reservations, guided us through the streets of Boston, and generally took charge of our visit. It was a pleasure to let her make all the plans, but oh my gosh, where did my little girl go?
Don't get me wrong - I'm thrilled to have such a self-sufficient, independent and confident young woman for my daughter. I just couldn't help remembering the night we dropped her off at the dorms for her freshman year, after all of the shopping and moving and unpacking was done. She was such a wreck...scared and crying and all alone, standing in the parking lot of Warren Towers, home to 1800 mostly freshman students, as we drove away. But as overwhelmed as she was, I was probably more so - saying goodbye to my little girl, leaving her to find her way, to learn to live with a stranger for a roommate, make friends, and become part of the big, urban campus that is Boston University. But find her way she did, with a few bumps in the road, both large and small - and over the past three years she's traveled through Europe, spoken at admissions sessions up and down the west coast, joined a sorority, and had 2 successful internships, all while maintaining good grades and (mostly) staying positive, happy and enthusiastic. I suppose somewhere inside of me I knew she'd be ok when we drove away that night, but still...
Katie and Ana, doing the sorority pic head tilt
The weekend was wonderful. We met her new friends, had dinner with her roommates, whom we'd known since freshman year, and went to the Founder's Day ceremony for her sorority, Alpha Epsilon Phi. Every senior I talked to said she wished she wasn't graduating, that college is wonderful and the prospects in the real world are kind of terrifying. It made me feel sad for these girls - young women - all of whom have worked hard in college, all of whom deserve a chance to make something great happen as adults - but with things the way they are in the world today, it's understandable, though sort of terrible, that they wish they could stay in college forever.
What will happen to all of these young adults, recent and future graduates, with their expensive educations, student loans, and stars in their eyes? A few will make it big in their chosen field, but many will struggle to find a place in the world. Some will continue their education, spending more money, though the job market continues to be sluggish, and salaries and benefits continue to be meager for all but the most in-demand careers. I hate to even say "when I was in college," but, when I was in college, jobs were easy to find, careers were long-term, and there was the sense of opportunity, even for me, an English major. Now, it's nothing short of miraculous to hear of a recent graduate who not only has a job, but is able to fully support him or herself on their salary. So many well-educated young people wind up having to live at home, cobbling together some sort of living out of part time jobs and help from their parents. I don't believe that this generation, at least based on my limited knowledge, is entitled and lazy, as so many politicians, bloggers and editorial writers have suggested...in fact, I think they're extremely motivated, with big dreams and a lot of great experience and enthusiasm. It's a shame that the world that awaits them makes it so difficult to hold on to all of that.
Rockport, MA. So beautiful!
The next time we go to Boston, it will be for graduation. My wish for Katie and her friends is that they all have jobs lined up, or acceptances to grad school, or plans for whatever it is they want to do with the next phase of their lives. I hope they are able to support themselves, find good friends, marry when they're ready, have healthy children, live in beautiful homes, and be happy forever. My wishes are those of a dreamer, but these girls are all filled with dreams themselves - and I hope they all come true.
Sharon Greenthal emptyhousefullmind.blogspot.com