Last night we dropped the oldest at college. Well. First I took the youngest to 3rd grade orientation. The middle boy is off on a grand adventure which will have to wait to be told. The youngest boy spent the day in the humidity and heat of the south lugging things up to the 4th floor college door room with Dad.
So we “dropped” the boy at college after a full day of outfitting the room, making runs to Target, and figuring out details.
The departure was abrupt. I knew early on it was going to be difficult. I didn’t anticipate it being abrupt. Dinner was at 6 and we weren’t invited…just the students and the dean. So we had to let him hug us quickly and run to meet friends and make it on time. And we were left standing in his dorm room. I hadn’t quite pictured the transition like that.
I also had not anticipated that the weeks leading up to this moment would be some of the most stressful we have ever encountered, all things not part of this college adventure. We were distracted. And exhausted. Wednesday night it hit me like a wall. He was leaving. Really leaving…and this constant, calm presence that had been part of my rhythm for 18 years was going to be gone.
And I didn’t get to write the letter I wanted to tuck away somewhere in his things. Yes, I know that’s sappy, but I deal with emotions through writing and needed to leave him my words.
So, guess what, buddy…they are going here. Sometimes the keyboard is more cathartic than the pen.
You are so very ready for this moment, even though you may not really know it. There are some great letters out there to Freshman. They remind their kids to do their laundry, to clean the toilet and to not get drunk. They are reminding their kids that this is an amazing time in their lives. They are reminding them they love them. And all those things are true…but I have a few more.
First. Be alive in these moments. Take them in. There is going to be so much activity, so many conversations, and so much life. Be intentional. Be present. Pay attention. In those things God is there…
“There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly. . . . If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
You knew I had to start with Buechner. Pay attention. Take note of your life. I left you a new Moleskin journal. Fill it up. Even just with stupid stuff. Write about who you met on these first days. Write about how you are feeling. Write. It is not just to have to look back on, it is to process and slow down and think about your days.
These days are going to be so full. Terrifying, and good, and daunting, and amazing. You are going to have the whole spectrum of feelings. ( I resisted the whole Buechner quote of Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. See what I did there?)
Find the things that bring you delight and absolutely delight in them!
Second. Take care of yourself.
“Love yourself not in some egocentric, self-serving sense but love yourself the way you would love your friend in the sense of taking care of yourself, nourishing yourself, trying to understand, comfort, and strengthen yourself.”
This. Take care of yourself. And remind yourself of those who have poured life into you for 18 years. You have such a strong foundation. You’ve been taught to work hard, to laugh even harder, and to think well. You have been taught to believe. Remember those lessons. You can tackle anything that comes your way. Remind yourself of the men who have taught you through the simplest things.
You have the tools for this life.
Encourage yourself when you feel overwhelmed. Challenge yourself when you feel lazy. And rest. You have a great dorm room to find some peace and silence and rest. Pay attention to what you need emotionally and physically.
Third. Work out your faith, and make it yours.
“Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.”
Yes. More Buechner. And more truth. You are going to have questions. You are going to encounter people and God in ways you never have. Your faith is going to become more yours than ever before. This is all good. Don’t be afraid of the doubts. Don’t ignore them. Wrestle with them, and pray and think. Remind yourself of the truths you know, of the experiences you have had and of the testimonies of God you have witnessed in our family. Pray. Read. Think.
Pray. Everywhere you go. Talk to your God. Tell Him everything.
“I have no idea who to sit with at lunch, I’m lonely and afraid.”
“I am so completely stoked to be here.”
“I am completely overwhelmed and don’t know what to do next.”
Everything. Everything. Everything. Pray without ceasing. He is there and He wants to hear it. Pray.
Fourth. Note who you are becoming.
“Daybreak is a never-ending glory; getting out of bed is a never ending nuisance.” – Chesterton
Yep. Had to have Chesterton. Don’t get bored. That seems to be the underlying theme I am getting to here. The details of the day are going to be making you a man. They have been for 18 years. Now you get to chose the details. You get to chose the influences and the situations. These are the formings of who you will be, what you will build on this foundation you have.
“Thus, when you wake up in the morning, called by God to be a self again, if you want to know who you are, watch your feet. Because where your feet take you, that is who you are.” -Buechner
Have so much fun. Learn so many amazing things. But think well about where you go, and who you allow to truly know you. Before you get out of bed, think of who you are and you want to be. Be intentional, my boy, don’t just be carried along.
And remember that we are so proud of who you are becoming. You have quite the cheering section.
Fifth. Be kind.
“I wish we could sometimes love the characters in real life as we love the characters in romances. There are a great many human souls whom we should accept more kindly, and even appreciate more clearly, if we simply thought of them as people in a story.” -Chesterton
All these folks doing this life with you right now are full of all the same emotions. Pay attention to them. Find the ones who really need a friend and be a friend. Find the ones who you can really connect with and grapple with life, and hold them close. Be kind always. Even when you have to be strong or confrontational. You can still be kind.
That’s it, my boy. And yes, I’ll still call you my boy. It’s yours now. The foundation is there, and we are still here. There’s a transition that happened in that last hug, though. You get to decide now on the directions and the details. We get to cheer and to support rather than to plan.
And I am so excited. Granted, I will probably cry a bit this weekend. But this has been our goal. To see you becoming a man who has character and integrity and faith. A man who can laugh and play and can also think deeply and weep and pray. You are becoming that man and we couldn’t be more proud. This is going to be fantastic.
Oh, and two last things. We still have to watch Something the Lord Made and Life is Beautiful, so come home eventually to watch them.
And. Last thing. I hid two $50 bills in your belongings. Have fun finding them.