Going to College: The Ultimate BreakAway

Posted on: Sunday, October 4th, 2015
Posted in: SoulTrain, Blog | Leave a comment


Roots and wings. That oft-used aphorism professes what most parents hope to grow in their children. And the highest and widest wing-spreading journey, for most, happens when leaving for college. In my case, the boy flew off to Princeton—a mere 1200 miles away, where he will, “play football, play baseball, and study my brains out!” Bye-bye roots, hello wings. Here for 6,000 todays, gone for…forever?

  • College gets controversial

These days, college gets kicked around more than a Division 1 soccer ball. The mountains of student debt—a potential macro-econ bubble-crisis. The value debate. The lack of lucrative jobs for grads. The sports/pay debate, the sex (abuse), the (binge) drinking, the elitism, the multi-billion-dollar endowments (for the top spots), the specious school scandals, the online education (r)evolution, yadda yadda yadda. Rah! Rah! Rah!

  • The gift of time

All those deserve examination, of course. But I think they are mostly distractors of what college (and by that I mean four years of focused study that results in a credible degree) is all about: The Ultimate BreakAway. Never again will a student of life receive ~1400 days to explore, evolve, and learn—usually with only a foggy (if smug) notion of where he is going, or where he’ll end up.

What can happen? Here are just some of the possibilities…

Leave home.

Leave friends.

Start over.

Listen more.

Speak up.

Learn fast, or…

Be humbled.

Fail shamefully.

Celebrate victoriously.

Juggle 555 expectations.

Fail again.

Try again.

Defy expectations.

Find trouble.

Change directions.

Change your mind.

Change the world?

Gain wisdom.

Gain weight.

Lose interest.

Fall in lust.

Fall in love.

Fall out of love.

Rekindle talents.

Discover a calling.

Change directions again.

Push your luck.

Pull all-nighters.

Study abroad.

Immerse yourself.

Perfect a language.

Take road trips.

Visit friend’s stomping grounds.

Get internships nearby.

Get internships faraway.

Ruminate, deliberate, contemplate.

  • Travel, travel, travel…

They are lucky, these new wanderers, and I hope they know it. (The very thought of a self-directed four-year journey makes me green-jello jealous.) You can’t put a price tag on their new experiences. And yet, parents pray they appreciate the cost—which can quickly soar into hundreds of thousands—and make every dollar and moment count.

Back home, this dad pledges to glide along on a parallel breeze while letting go, yet also embracing our successful, if often bumbling, family experiment that went so well. For me, too, the new life starts here.

Still, as I garden daily and watch my friends the loons and wrens wing it through their annual cycle, I notice they stay longer and louder this warm year—chattering, scolding, laughing, raising their babies. Then one day, without warning, they fly away. The yard gets quiet. And they seem to take 18-year’s worth of sandboxes, whiffle balls, and snow angels with them.

I wonder where they are now, and long for their return. I know they may not come home, or any of us could get eaten by the wolves. All the more reason to rejoice in what was, and pray with passion for what will be.

Savor your Ultimate BreakAway, son.

And don’t forget to…text?

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