One of the things I've never tried to force upon my sons is college. They've watched hard working contractors, builders, plumbers, landscapers, concrete pourers, brick layers, electricians, window installers, painters, garage door repairmen and HVAC experts bust their butts at our house, and each time one of these professionals finishes his job, packs up and leaves, I ask the boys if they'd ever be interested into choosing that kind of a career instead of going to college. There's a scarcity of good plumbers and electricians out there, in my opinion, and certainly not because the jobs don't pay well. We, as a society, have really bought into this notion that in order to have any value post-high school, all 18 year olds must go on to college. (Even though college isn't for everyone.) My sons tell me they want to get a degree.
That said, the second thing I've tried not to influence is my kids' decisions about where they might want to go to college. There's so much pressure as it is to score well on the SAT, choose the right classes and always get good grades... the last thing my boys need is me expecting them to do whatever I did, where I did it and the way in which I did it. I do not expect any ofd that. And because of that, I've told them scarcely little about my years in college or graduate school.
So when my high school senior, Michael, came to me in late February and asked to take a trip to Colorado to see where I went to school, I admit, I was a little shocked. I loved the University of Colorado-Boulder. It was a remarkable experience for me. I told Michael if he really want to see CU, I'd be happy to take him there. I chatted one afternoon with my sister Janet about making the trip west and she and her oldest son Evan wanted to come, too. The pieces of a fun weekend away were falling into place. Evan is just a year younger than Michael, and having a sister-cousin reunion in one of my favorite places sounded like a wonderful escape. (I should mention Joe's aunt Marge lives in Boulder... so rather than drop $250 on a rental car, we took busses and mass transit and begged Aunt Marge for lifts here and there. Perfect!)
A state school the size of CU learns how to do a lot of things right with respect to prospective students. When Michael received his acceptance letter and scholarship money, we got an email inviting us to Admitted Students Day, which just so happened to be the Saturday of the weekend Michael, Janet, Evan and I planned to visit. We flew into Denver, met up with the Californians, and took a bus to Boulder for 9 bucks each. It was snowing on Friday and the famous Flatirons that represent the majestic backdrop of this remarkable campus were completely shrouded in clouds. Aunt Marge called them Ghost Mountains as we sipped pints of beer at a downtown brewery and munched on flatbreads and pizza. Michael and Evan didn't seem impressed so far. I wasn't worried one way or the other. There's a saying in Boulder. If you don't like the weather, give it a few hours. And so we did.
We woke up early Saturday to get to the Coors Event Center by 8AM sharp where 4,000 other admitted freshmen were gathering for tours, sample class lectures, and a general overview of college life at CU. Coors is where the Buffs play basketball. I got chills walking into the arena after nearly 30 years.
With an undecided major, Michael was assigned to the College of Arts and Sciences. The various majors were color-coded and after a hello from the school president and assorted other dignitaries, we were dismissed in our individual groups (followed a girl holding a bunch of purple balloons) to enjoy a sample lecture. I loved the professor's description of what a liberal arts education is all about, because I'm sure Michael had no idea. He equated it with a salad bar. You might not like tomatoes on your salad, but with a liberal arts background, you're expected to try them, and broccoli, some onions, and even a few olives. What you think you don't like can prove to be a surprise... and sampling different subjects can open a door to something unexpected that you never before dreamed of being interested in.
I got chills as we hopped onto a campus tour here, on the grassy lawn outside my college dorm called Farrand Hall. For an hour, a sweet sophomore showed us the ins and outs and all the improvements at CU that have been made since I graduated in 1992. How totally cool.
There was no outstanding student rec center when I went to CU! Now there is. With basketball courts whose wall-to-wall windows look out over Boulder.
And we certainly never had an outdoor pool. (Especially not one shaped like a Buffalo, the CU mascot. Can you see its shape?)
But still - towering over CU's magnificent campus - is the sight of all sights. The view from Flagstaff Mountain is second to none. Evan and Michael took no time to enjoy everything about it.
Look. The University of Colorado-Boulder is an incredible place. Is it the best and only place for my sons to go to school? No. But Michael told me, as the Rocky Mountain sun beat on his face and the snow on the ground melted... he felt at home. "Mom, this is it," he said. It sounded an awful lot like his mother, 30 years earlier.
As I said. I don't care where my sons want to go to college. I just want them to find a place where they feel at home. Where they can be happy. Where they can start their lives away from me. If it's in beautiful Boulder, Colorado? That's terrific. If it's not? That's great too. This time is for YOU, boys. This is your life. Your decision. Your time.
To all of you walking in my shoes, and to all of you who've already walked in them... wow. We are so blessed. We get this incredible front row seat to see the beginning of our favorite peoples' futures.
Life is good.