By Alethea Mshar of Ben’s Writing, Running Mom
“Where are you going to college?” Every time anyone, anywhere finds out that my daughter is a senior this year, this is the question they ask. You can watch her shut down. Unless she decides to get creative and make up a story about what she’s going to do, and you can see the adult she’s talking to eat it up, sometimes it’s easier to just play along than to try to explain and deal with the fallout of the nurse at your allergist’s office looking down her nose at you.
My 18-year-old daughter isn’t certain of her post high school plans. Perhaps some online classes, almost certainly work and save some money, something she’s been doing for years. But her real plan? To live.
She wants to travel, to experience cultures and see the country and possibly the world. She wants to hop in a car and chase the setting sun, to see this country from top to bottom, tiny villages and giant metropolisis, experiencing food, art, natural parks, and wide open spaces along the way.
Armed with a camera and art supplies, she will document her adventures, and when she’s done on this continent she has her sights set on a Rickshaw race across India. She’s bucking the traditional approach to life, but that isn’t on accident. After looking into dozens of possibilities, she’s determined that the one thing she would regret not doing most is experiencing the world first hand.
My daughter is part of a growing trend toward questioning a set path in life, and seeking out a lifestyle that, though not the norm, will likely be highly satisfying. Without too many things to tie her down, like mortgages and long-term steady employment, she plans to lead a minimalist lifestyle rich in experiences, not things.
As her mom, it’s not an easy pill to swallow. I resonate with her resistance to going right to college. My own mom insisted that I attend a community college, out of fear, I believe, and I recoiled from it, while complying with her desire. I quit after a semester, loaded down with resentment and frustration. I caught traction a year later, and re-enrolled in a program which suited me well. I don’t know that my daughter will return to school in a year — it’s entirely possible that travel is her path, and it’s not for me to say. I do know that travel comes with its own education and benefits, most of which suit her creative, free spirit beautifully. I could insist on pushing her in a more traditional direction, but the way I see it, that would end in one of two ways: she will either acquiesce and resent as I did, or she will go her own way anyway, but without my blessing. Neither option works for me.
Instead I will buckle up for the ride, and send her off on her way, with heaps of uncertainty in my heart, ready to serve as a safety net if needed.
As with many people, when I look back on life, I have 2 regrets: one is not continuing to further my education, and the other is not traveling more. I hope to change both of those in the future, but there are no guarantees.
The way I see it, it’s entirely possible that my daughter will have only one regret; or maybe she’ll have none at all.
About the Author
Alethea is a runner, a gardener, a special needs mom, and a writer. She has been happily married for time immemorial, and thinks way too much. If you want to read more from her, give her a gander at Ben’s Writing, Running Mom.