COLLEGE BOUND: A Teenager’s Unspoken Thoughts

collegebound

Seeing your child leave for college for the first time can be terrifying. You spend countless hours wondering what they will do, who they will become, when they will call and if they will remember the safety lectures you gave them over the years. Underneath all of the excitement and pride lies a feeling of uncertainty. No one ever really knows what to expect.

My family was no exception. While my mom was freaking out, I was freaking out even more. As scary as it is to watch your child leave, it’s even scarier to be the child leaving. At the same time, I was nervous and excited; hopeful, anxious and scared. I think there is often this misconception that teenagers feel they don’t need their parents and are ready to leave as soon as possible. But that’s not always the case. Often, we are confused. The world can be a scary place, and the thought of going into it alone is terrifying.

During the months leading up to the departure, I didn’t say much about college. I didn’t want anyone to know how I really felt. College is supposed to be exciting. Everyone around me was looking forward yo it, so I made myself look forward to it, too.

Although no one said anything, there was always this looming presence of apprehension. I didn’t think anyone wanted to talk about it, and that’s where we went wrong.

Communication is the most important part of any relationship – without it, neither side stands a chance.

One day in the middle of the summer, my mom looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I’m not ready to let you go.” With the same expression on my face, I uttered the same sentence to her. It was at that moment we both realized we felt the same.

By the time move-in day came, we were all right. My family and I woke up early in the morning, loaded the car with my dorm furniture and headed north. Once in the dorm room, we hung up pictures, made my bed, strung lights and met my roommate. It was fun, and I thought to myself, ‘I might actually like it here.’ Perhaps it was because, in that moment, college seemed like an overnight camp. I was staying for one night and would see my family the next day.

I did not see my family the next day, the next week or the next month. I used to think going to college was like going to a new school, but that wasn’t the case. I just had myself. I felt alone. College marked the beginning of my learning to live on my own. My mother called every day, and, when she didn’t, I made sure to call her. We carried on this pattern for about a month. We talked every day, sometimes for a minute, sometimes for an hour. Eventually, we both reached a place of comfort – or, at least, I thought we had.

It was early one Saturday morning, a month and and a half after I had moved in, when I received a knock on the door from a police officer. “Your mom just wanted me to check in on you,” she said. “You didn’t return her calls this morning.” The incident rattled me, but I Face-Timed with her, and this time we talked about everything, including our emotions.

It took me the lesser half of the academic year to realize I was not alone; my family was right there in my corner. My mom and I had been so caught up in the idea of “letting go” that neither one of us actually were letting go. Parents need to know and trust they’ve done everything they possibly can to prepare their children for the next step. It’s natural to worry, but it’s important to know the values you instilled within them will last a lifetime.

“UNDERNEATH ALL OF THE
EXCITEMENT AND PRIDE LIES A
FEELING OF UNCERTAINTY. NO
ONE EVER REALLY KNOWS WHAT
TO EXPECT.”

If you learn nothing else from this essay, learn to trust that your child is ready to go off into the world. The important part is they still need you beside them. It’s like teaching a child how to ride a bike; you’re letting go, but you’re still watching them, ready to be there in case they fall. And even if you don’t feel ready, that’s okay because you don’t have to feel ready to be ready.

I cannot attest to the bond every mother has with her child, but I can say your child loves you and, in the end, they just want to make you proud. And, if they don’t call you every night, don’t send the police to their door. They’re probably fine.