Opinion | Dear parents: It’s okay to cry while I’m away

By Talia Duffy, Assistant Opinions Editor

The day is approaching.

The days, weeks and months leading up to it stretch into infinity and simultaneously compress into milliseconds. The planning, anticipation, worry and excitement — I’ve thought about it well past the point of what’s considered too much thinking.

Despite it all, nobody is truly prepared for the day they leave home for college; that’s okay. Being unprepared, in this case, is as inevitable as it is beneficial.

Parents: You have raised and guided me through the ups and downs of every stage of life. From my first days as a teeny baby (to my most recent as a rebellious teen), I was yours to hold (and to fight with — lovingly, of course). But on that day, it will be time for you to let me go.

In turn, it will be time for me to find my own way in the world. It will be time for me to achieve my own success. It will be time for me to make my own mistakes.

None of that would happen if it were possible to be perfectly prepared for college — so it’s a good thing that it’s not possible to be perfectly prepared. Neither of us really knows what to expect over the next four-ish years. Even if I have an older sibling who’s already gone through it all, my experiences and responses to the world around me will be different — they will be my own.

For starters, the transition from living at home with family, to living in a building with hundreds of other young adults is going to be weird. The reality of it won’t set in for me until I’m sitting on my bed, trying not to cry too much in front of my roommate. For you, the reality of it won’t set in until you slowly drive out of the parking lot, waving goodbye until you can’t see me anymore, not even trying to pretend like you’re not crying.

Later that night, when I’m in a new room and having trouble falling asleep — the same way people have trouble falling asleep in random hotels — I’ll feel alone. Alone in a way I won’t be prepared for, and I’ll miss you.

The frenzy of Welcome Week will be overwhelming as I introduce myself to people I’ll never meet again and try to navigate the tangle of roads, sidewalks and historic buildings called the University of Illinois. Seriously, why are all these streets named after numbers and states? How does anyone tell them apart?

But soon, I’ll be able to make my way to the Union without relying on Google Maps. I’ll find a group of people to eat dinner with every night. I’ll realize that if I want to get anything done, I have to sneak away to the corner of my favorite library where my friends and I always goof around.

I’ll stay out too late on a Friday and end up vomiting in front of a random restaurant on Green Street. I’ll call you every week to keep you updated on everything — or, most things, at least. I might leave out the vomiting.

All of these moments — good and bad — will happen because I am unprepared. All I can do is live one day at a time. Life has been the same for so long, and now I have to learn to live all over again. There are new rules, new characters, new abilities — like volume two of a video game, but this time the developers didn’t include a tutorial.

I know it’s scary for you, not knowing what I’m doing or if I’m OK. But if I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing or if I’m not OK, I’ll have to deal with the consequences myself. You cannot always be here to save me, as much as either of us would like that to be true.

That’s why being unprepared is essential when it comes to college. I might feel terrible in those moments, but when I look back, I will realize they were just another stepping stone in my path. It’s cliché, but everything happens for a reason.

In short, the point where I’ve figured everything out does not exist without the process of actually figuring it out. From that process, I will learn more than what any class will teach me, so let me go through it.

It’s OK to cry when I go off to college — I’ll probably cry, too — but then my tears will dry, and I will have the most transformative, most stressful and most amazing year of my life — a year I was not prepared for at all.

 

Talia is a sophomore in Media.

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