My youngest has decided upon a college. She told us yesterday that she will be matriculating at The University of the South, also known as “Sewanee,” in Tennessee. This is the announcement my husband and I had been gearing up for since last spring when we started touring college campuses, perusing “guidebooks,” such as The Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report,talking to counselors and interviewing other students. Over the last 12 months, we have spent, literally, hours, days, maybe even weeks, debating the pros and cons of approximately 8 – 10 chosen colleges in the U.S. My husband and I could spout facts and statistics about each of them. We have looked at everything from majors offered, to national rankings, to “Greek life,” to distance to the nearest airports. I have talked, prayed, thought and pondered until I felt I would cry from indecision. I have awoken in the night, thinking of these colleges, their curriculums, and their locations on the map, tossing and turning until the alarm sounded. Although this is our third child, this lengthy decision period has been a new experience for us; our oldest daughter decided to attend TCU in Ft. Worth by February of her senior year and never looked back. Our second daughter applied to only one school, the University of Texas at Austin, and was accepted early in her senior year. Our youngest daughter, however, has given the most careful deliberation to this question of anyone we’ve ever known, and has spent her entire senior year in a state of indecision. Trying to assist her, we have traveled to colleges across Texas, down the West Coast, and all across the South; some we’ve seen twice. Just last weekend, we went back to Sewanee, in an effort to narrow choices. Immediately after the trip, our youngest still wasn’t talking, despite my expectant glances in her direction. But, yesterday, she ended the suspense and, finally, announced her decision. In a very matter-of-fact tone, as the night drew dark and late, and I was getting ready to turn in, my youngest came to my husband and me and said, quietly, “I think it’s Sewanee.” I, for a change, thought before acting or speaking, and glanced suspiciously in the direction of other family members. My oldest daughter gave me a look and shook her head gently, which meant, “Don’t say anything stupid, Mom.” My husband suppressed a grin. And, my little girl turned and walked away. I looked at my husband and whispered, “Really? Did she mean that? Is she going to Sewanee?” He smiled and said, “Yes; I think that’s a wise decision.” I was standing around waiting for fireworks, joyful celebrating, dancing of jigs, hugs, and all-consuming glee. Instead, everyone just went to bed.
As I lay awake pondering my daughter’s future, I thought about all the effort she’d expended to get to this point. This past year she’d attended SAT classes, spent months filling out applications, writing requisite essays, speaking with college reps who came to her high school campus, traveling to numerous colleges, not to mention the countless hours spent over the last four years studying, reading, writing papers, and spending Tuesday afternoons with her math tutor. After all that, she certainly should have spent all the time she needed investigating what institutions of higher learning had to offer her. I laughed to myself as I remembered my senior year in Cuero High School. My only two academic courses that year were English and Government. The rest of my day was filled with Office Aide, Drill Team, Choir, and Yearbook. I can honestly say that I think the most stressful I ever felt was coming up with a “Thought for the Day” during morning announcements, (part of my job in the office.) “Stress” was not in my vocabulary that year. I did not prepare at all for the SAT or ACT, and simply showed up when they were scheduled. (My grades accurately reflected my lack of preparation, I might add.) What did it matter? Anyone who wanted to attend the University of Texas or Texas A & M were welcome to “Come on down.” I applied to only one school, Southwestern University, in Georgetown, Texas, thanks mostly to a good family friend who had invited me to come for a weekend visit. I wrote a letter which I submitted with my application to S.U., stating that I wanted to major in Communications. The nice man in Admissions wrote back, “Dear Constance, We would love to have you, but we do not offer Communications as a field of study.” Oh well, I thought. That’s okay, and I attended Southwestern. I don’t remember discussing my decision much with my parents, and I guarantee you they weren’t losing any sleep over it. My, how times have changed!
The next morning when I awoke, I looked at my daughter across the breakfast table. Nothing. She wasn’t talking. “Bye, I’m going to be late for school,” she called. That was it. I realized that she’d made her decision; now it was time for me to make one. What am I going to do after she leaves and the nest is truly empty? Give me time. I’m working on it.