Adult Steps

2012-10-05 – My son Cal reports loving the sauna at his college where he goes with his soccer buddies to “chill.” We never went to the sauna here at home. We’re members of a Y, but the Y doesn’t have a sauna. And he never talked about chillin’ with his family. Though we had plenty of fun times together, chillin’ was something he did with his peers.

There’s a big debate about big-ticket colleges that provide amenities for students that most parents never could afford. Defenders of the practice say that the amenities are required to attract the best students. Opponents of the practice say that dollars spent on amenities don’t translate to educational achievement and, worse, the resulting high tuition makes these elite institutions accessible only to the well-to-do (the token minority admissions notwithstanding).

I’m pretty much in the second camp, with this exception: I don’t like the completely utilitarian view of education that the critics have. I don’t believe that our country has benefited by the explosion of business schools at the expense of the liberal arts. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Today I want to talk about leaving home. For most students, the biggest aspect of college is not the classwork. It’s the fact that they are on their own for the first time. They need to find a place for themselves on their own. At college, it may be in the dorm or with your teammates on the college team.

Not everyone has this kind of experience, but everyone needs to find a place for themselves. My son Nat is following an entirely different path. He didn’t have a dorm, but he had a club in culinary school and buddies on the job. It’s a work still in progress (he’s still only 20). Other folk take their first adult-steps in the army.

There are many ways to do it. Becoming part of the adult community is a difficult transition. Some people never get all the way there. Our society is fragmented. Neighborhoods don’t function as neighborhoods once did. We often don’t live anywhere near our family and friends. Many people, maybe most, don’t have the support of a church community. Some people make connections at work, but for most people, the connection ends at quitting time.

For me, I have had writing groups and folk-dance groups and volunteer work. But it’s mostly just family now. I think back to my days in college, not just for the education, but for the experience I had with my friends there. All that is gone now – except for the memories.

* * *

Adult life is plagued with disunity,
Anonymous strife, and impunity.
The greatness of college
Is not just the knowledge,
But finding you place in community.

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