Monday, November 28, 2011

You're only dancing on this earth for a short while

I got my senior yearbook out this morning to try and remember what I was like, what life was like to be a 17 year old pom pon girl, back in the seventies.

This is what I remember about that time in my life. My friends, my many friends. I remember dances and driving. I remember bonfires and bands. I remember singing John Denver at the top of my lungs with my friend Retta. I remember working in Walgreens making a few bucks. I remember hip hugger jeans and tube tops. Summer nights at the quarry and drive in movies with John Golabek. I remember I didn't get the date I wanted for prom and it didn't matter, because my mom made me a gorgeous dress. All these little snippets. I remember so much.

I remember my parents were proud of me. I was going to college, having a chance to do something they never got to do. I remember saying goodbye to Dawn, to Kathy, to Anita, to Diane to many years together and now our lives were going to change.

But nowhere in my mind do I remember being stressed. I don't remember caring that much. I was more concerned with having the right bathing suit than being in the National Honor Society. My grades, what were they? I think OK. I really don't remember. How many colleges did I apply to? One. Eastern Illinois University and it was good for me, it was very good.

The reason I am writing this, is what are we doing to our children? Lord, what are we doing? The right ACT score, the right leadership opportunities, the right passion, oh yes, passion on that college essay. All carefully planned with promises for the right school and surely that means success, that means you will have the right life. So study, study. AP classes till you are bleary eyed studying late at night. You need at least a couple and then as many honor classes as you can stomach. In your spare time, that is when you need to demonstrate PASSION. Yes! Passion for something, not necessarily what you are interested in, but passion for something that someone else in an admissions office will deem worthy. Start a charity, build a library, collect 1000 winter coats. Whatever it is, make sure it counts. Make sure it is impressive.

What was my passion? My passion was having fun spending time with friends that I had grown up with and would soon not be walking down the hall with me. My passion was doing a good job at Walgreens and saving my paycheck for spending money in college.

By today's standards, I was a mediocre student. But, I will tell you this. I would not trade the social skills I gained by all those hours of fun for anything. Because it taught me about people and about life. Job interviews were easy. I was used to talking to strangers at Walgreens. I didn't do anything really notable, but what I did do was build a reservoir of memories that are with me today. Interesting, mediocre grade, state school and yet, I had a good career that kind of unfolded as I lived my life. It had nothing to do with my grades, my school.

My little girl was beating herself up because she wanted to take Photography instead of another AP class. So, I made the decision. You will take the photography class and so what. You see, we are on that final lap before college application letters get written. She works so hard and she is so much better at grades, accomplishments. But, I need to teach her more about these precious memories of high school, the friends that will soon not be in your life. I want her to look back and say, "it was good".

In my senior yearbook there are many smiling faces and the captions read from the Cat Stevens song, "Oh very young, what will you leave us this time? You're only dancing on this earth for a short while and though your dreams may toss and turn you now...

Oh very young, there'll never be a better chance.

Gracie has one and half years of high school left. This crazy path to nowhere they talk about, well they are right. Work hard, yes, but play hard, too. Treasure these years, they are the entry way to adulthood. Parents...we will never have a better chance to teach them right.