There’s stuff that people really like to be hard. Like ice if you’re going fishing in January, or liquor. Plenty of people like hard liquor. I can think of other stuff, too, but I’d like to keep this a PG-13 blog, so we’ll leave it at that.
But a lot of people, and by people I mean teenagers, don’t like anything hard. I’m thinking in particular of a certain 19-year old who has been primarily sleeping, playing video games and eating in my house for the last month. They call that “winter break” from college these days. I remember “winter break” as a period of four weeks shoveling snow for 25 cents an hour, 12 hours a day when I was in college, but times change I guess. (Or I might not be remembering correctly.)
Anyway, it’s getting to be that time again when the reality of going back to college is setting in. First semester was rough for him. He’s at school over two hours away, he’s a college athlete so he’s ridiculously busy every second he’s not in class or at work, and he cares about his grades, so he studies all the time. He’s pretty serious about athletics and his body, so he’s decided not to engage in the typical party culture that I’m sure I enjoyed a little too much during my freshman year of college (although I may not be remembering again). Therefore, he spent the majority of his first semester pretty much getting slapped in the face with a giant dose of homesickness and the reality of adult life. Haven’t I been telling you for like the last 19 years to not be in a hurry to grow up? Yeah, this is exactly why. Being a grown-up is totally not all that it’s cracked up to be.
While he spent the semester being miserable and sad and homesick, I (mom) spent the semester feeling all mom-ish and miserable and sad and homesick for him in only the way a mom can. But, I also know that sometimes things have to be hard.
What I do remember pretty vividly from my first semester of college is being really homesick. I remember wanting to come home for the weekend and my parents telling me no. (I think they started walking around the house naked all the time or something after I left since they were empty-nesters, or having wild parties or doing all those other things on the list that Doc and I have of the fun stuff we are gonna do once all our kids are gone – which we thought was going to be in 2018, but because of our little 2013 “surprise” won’t be until the year 2031, assuming we are still alive).
Anyway, at the time when I was in college, I wouldn’t have dreamed of complaining about being homesick to my parents. We just sucked it up back then. We expected college to be hard. We expected our first jobs to suck. We expected to live in a crappy apartment and eat Ramen noodles for dinner five nights a week. Going out on a date meant walking around the Meijers store on the West Side of Columbus making fun of people, counting tattoos (which you certainly didn’t see as often back then) and picking out stuff we would buy when we had money some day. But, we were happy because we were grown ups.
When I tell my kids about how awesome those days were, I do it as a lump forms in my throat. I guess I’m old enough now to remember “good old days.” But because of those days, I really appreciate my beautiful home with more than one bathroom. I appreciate that I have a garage and a full pantry and freezer full of real food. I appreciate being able to get pizza from wherever I want it and on any night of the week because I can afford to do it. I can even do it twice in a week if I want.
So as he gets ready to go back to school, I don’t feel sorry for him any more. I try to tell him that it’s the hard times now that make you appreciate the good stuff later. So, it’s my hope that he has some hard times, some adversity, challenges. Because with them usually comes success and victory and that awesome feeling you get when you look back and realize you’re still alive. You might be a little banged up or scarred, but you’re still breathing and kicking so, go you! I know I look back. I had to go through some pretty crappy crap over the last couple of years, but guess what. Here I am, World. And I’m all that much stronger for it, thank you very much. So, Life, go ahead. Bring on the hard stuff. And to my kid – just know that Mom may not be going to rescue you, but I promise that I’ll always be here to cheer you on.