In what now seems like another life, I purchased a book entitled Colleges that Change Lives by Loren Pope. Anyone who has in recent years helped a high school student find a school has read or heard of this book.
I bought it out of a certain desperation, my older son needing--I thought--a changed life, one that didn't involve illegal substances. I helped him apply to several of these colleges, and he ended up going to The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and yes, oh my god. His life was changed.
But maybe it wasn't changed but revealed. What I've noticed as a parent is that children are who they are from the moment of birth. My son was exactly who he was when he was born, his character emerging as he grew. At eighteen months, he looked at me one morning as he stood in his crib, and then flipped himself out over the rails and landed on his feet. I should have known then he'd end up being an anarchist. Who needs a leader! It's time to eat. And off he was to the kitchen.
Evergreen didn't do more than peel off the layers, the ones I'd placed on my son: order, structure, ritual, norms. My crib flipping son never wanted anything to do with the above, and Evergreen's lack of structure and confluence of ideas showed him that.
My younger son also went to Evergreen, but this was a different child, a different person. This is the child who--when hearing my particular key chain jangle as I walked onto the playground--would turn, see me, light up, and dash into my arms.
Evergreen taught him--through the same ideas and lack of structure--that while he loved me, he could move through life without my constant comments and values. Maybe that's what we all do as we grow up, but here was a place where little value is placed on doing the same thing the same way.
Where is this child now? All grown up and fighting wildfires in Nevada. Did my freak out concern about this vocation about this play a part in his decision? Not really. And very good that.
All along, though, I think I knew that my careful planning was only fear against chaos and the weirdness of the world. But no matter what we do, we can't avoid trauma or loss or despair. They come into port on surprise tours, the upheaval tourists fanning out and visiting every part of our lives.
It's great when the tours divert to other ports, but we can't hold them off forever. I know that now.
Somehow, despite my worries, I directed my sons to a place I couldn't follow. Not just the college, but their own lives, that they are living their own way. Despite my best intentions.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org