“So are you writing a post about Chelsea’s graduation”?
I got this a LOT. And I’m not surprised. A child’s college graduation is truly unlike any other milestone in a parent’s life.
I’ll try to explain:
Assuming your child goes the traditional straight-to-college-finishes-in-four-years route, you will have spent 17 of 22 years dealing with their education. That’s almost 80% of their lives. It’s a marathon, for sure, with scant time for “perspective”. For “taking a step back”. For “looking at the big picture”. Most of the time you’re spinning plates.
Yes, there’s a slight reprieve each summer, wherein you’ve just about sifted through all of last year’s paperwork before the new round descends. And since the college process is exponentially more fraught than the prior 12 years COMBINED, things really escalate toward the end.
And then you blink, and one day you find yourself here:
This picture was quickly snapped with my phone during the smaller ceremony where Chelsea graduated from the department of her major. In a way it was more meaningful than the “big” graduation in the football stadium – it was more intimate, and we got to see her walk across the stage as her name was called (with Noah shouting out for her, of course).
Because we were a large group we had to split up, and I found myself sitting alone. Which was quite fitting. Because I alone really went through every moment of those four years with her. Mike and our family, of course, supported her greatly – in every way. But I was “in it”. For better. And worse.
And that’s why it’s taken me three months – almost to the day- to craft this post. It would have been so easy to just hammer out a few lines – accompanied by pictures of smiling faces – about how “proud” I am. About how “hard” she worked. About the “bright future” she had in store.
And it would have all been true. But there were other things. You know there were. And had I simply left it at that, you wouldn’t have known:
That she applied early decision to her first choice school and didn’t get in.
That she was then wait-listed for her second choice school.
That while she was anxiously waiting to hear if she got into that school, she was told at a gathering with her dad’s family – by an uncle who was (ready?) a college admissions officer – that: a) she was NEVER going to get in, and b) it was okay, because there was always “clown college”.
(She got in.)
That in the very first semester of her freshman year she was told by her Micro Economics (I know, don’t even) teacher that she was failing the class, that there was nothing she could do to pass, and she had missed the deadline to drop the class by one day.
(She failed the class. But took it again with a different teacher. And passed.)
That her dad’s wife took the occasion of her farewell dinner before her sophomore year to verbally eviscerate her – calling her (among other, unmentionable things) a “cold-hearted b—h”, and telling her she could kiss her college tuition goodbye. That incident pretty much colored Chelsea’s entire sophomore year. But she made it through – emotionally slammed, but determined not to go under.
That during that same year she almost transferred to another school – overwhelmed by the academic stresses and pressures of her major. We even set up an appointment to visit the school during her spring break. But in the end she decided to stay.
So now you know.
Fortunately, there were some pretty amazing things too:
A paper she wrote for an English class was used as the “model” for the following semester’s course.
She was accepted to her department’s very competitive study abroad program, in Paris. She was awarded two highly coveted internships while she was there, and aced all of her classes too.
She maintained an internship at a major apparel company that she had started working for in high school -being asked back every winter and summer break, and assigned increasingly more challenging and prestigious projects. She is now working for the company, on a long-term temp assignment that will hopefully (fingers crossed) turn into a full-time position.
She cultivated a group of friends – boys and girls who stayed together and pretty much lived together for all four years – who supported one another, took care of one another, and set the bar for the kind of experience I hope Conor and Noah have when they “get there”.
And, of course, she graduated from college – from the most challenging of all of the schools that she was accepted to. After many all-nighters spent at the library. After many (many) nail-biters, waiting to see if she passed yet another grueling course (did I mention Micro Economics? It was followed by Macro Economics). After many difficult good-byes, as she left for another semester away.
So now you know why I struggled with this post.
I’m fully aware that if you divined my life solely from my Instagram feed and Facebook posts, you could assume it was all doughnuts, the High Line and treks through Central Park. And there is no question that I am blessed to have this life, with my wonderful husband and children.
But there was no way that I could share this momentous occasion without including ALL of the events that marked it. Because then you couldn’t possibly appreciate how sweet – how very, very sweet – the moment in that picture was.
My friend Andrea summed it up so beautifully:
“That glance back at you has the entire universe in it.”
It really did, you guys.
Having a front row seat to this girl’s life has been my greatest joy and privilege. She’s strong, resilient and determined. She’s funny, warm and stylish.
She’s my hero.
And now you know why.