There are times when I am transported back to my days in college. I can get lost in the thoughts and memories and feel like I am almost watching a movie. Sometimes I hear a song and it is as if I am right back in 1988 at a party sipping on some God awful cheap beer, or I have a flashback of sitting in a classroom discussing Faulkner. It is so crazy to me that it has been 26 years!
After my sophomore year I transferred from my small college in the mountains of North Carolina to a larger school in Charleston, South Carolina. It was a secretive process really. Over my spring break I visited my best friend at the Citadel and fell in love with Charleston. I had become somewhat restless with my small college and I found myself wanting more. College of Charleston was the more I needed. I applied to the college without telling a soul. It was not until I was finished with the existing semester and heading back home that everything fell neatly into place. Though I loved the first two years of college at my tight-knit school, I knew I had to expand my world. I took a huge step out of my comfort zone and set out to do things that my 20 year old self thought to be vitally important.
I moved to Charleston on my own the summer before school resumed. I did not know anyone and arranged to live with complete strangers in a home near campus. I moved into the house months before my roommates – hell bent to be on my own. It was scary and it was amazing. I was twenty years old, in a great southern city, and I could spread my wings like never before. I spent days on end exploring the city on foot and by bike – getting job applications and walking through what was to be my campus. The feeling of freedom was inexplicable.
The summer of my 20th year was the time in my life where I truly changed the most. It was then that I became a Charlestonian and not just someone tied to my childhood home. I worked hard and I played hard. I also made mistakes and struggled in ways that would teach me more than any textbook. It was also the summer that I knew I would remain in Charleston for years to come and it led me to the path that would bring about my daughter.
I am thankful that my parents did not hold me back and they helped me to achieve my goals. They insisted I had some skin in the game in the form of a j.o.b., but I was more than ready to live and work in Charleston. They certainly could have approached things much differently since I was not exactly open with my thoughts in the beginning. As parents they just knew it was time to let me go be my own person. Though I needed them both emotionally and financially, I needed to create my own path more. I’m also fairly certain my mom did not want an unhappy 20 year old at home bitching and moaning the entire summer as well.
More than ever I have been transported right back to those days because I am now on the other side. I am feeling the growing pains all over again, though the pain I feel is entirely different. Now I am having to let my 20 year old daughter go and do the things she feels to be vitally important. My daughter and I are in the EXACT same place as I was with my mother back in 1990. We are all the exact same ages – it’s as if the movie was paused and suddenly new actors stepped into the roles.
Not long ago I was visiting my daughter in Raleigh when I brought up the conversation about summer plans. I found it interesting how the conversation quickly changed, yet there were subtle hints that told me she had something brewing. It made me wonder if my mother might have had some inkling about my discontent when I began making plans (after all she swears that nothing ever got by her). Oddly enough I understood my child’s buried restlessness and hidden desire to not return to her small hometown. In her eyes I saw myself all those years ago.
Apparently spring break of the sophomore year is the time we choose to make major life decisions. “Mom, I’ve decided to live in Raleigh this summer.” She had carefully laid plans and made arrangements. At that moment I understood what my own mother must have felt – the pain of realizing it was time to let go. Though the pain of giving your child the wings they need to grow is so suffocating, the pride of knowing they have reached the point you worked for all their lives is far greater.
The biggest difference is that my child is doing more significant things than I set out to do! Isn’t that what we truly want as parents? As a Chemical Engineering student there are more demands and challenges than I ever experienced. She will be focusing on a difficult class while participating in an opportunity of a lifetime. While I spent my time working at the GAP and Charleston Marina, my daughter is going to be doing DNA research.
My wish for my 20 year old daughter setting out on her own is that she works hard and does not forget to play hard. That she also learns from mistakes and has the struggles that no all-nighter in Hunt Library could ever provide. One day I want her to be transported back to her 20’s and feel the same monumental feelings I feel.
My growing pains are much different 20+ years later. It’s the pain of an empty room for the first summer ever, and the profound absence that my summer will have. Oddly enough I also have that familiar feeling of excitement and anticipation though my daughter is now my vessel. It’s going to be a unique journey and learning experience for us both.
MB, just try not to set off the smoke alarms making your very first meal on your own. Unfortunately my first evening on my own involved frightened neighbors and the fire department.