Their successes aren’t mine.
But I do get to live vicariously.
Whether they’re my own kids (organic, as one of my peers suggests) or my students (inorganic), I get to share in momentous happenings on a timeline from which I’m pretty far removed. Even as adults, these young people I know are still going through a lot of firsts.
With school, and jobs and significant others. With life.
Will wants to make our recent meeting a monthly event. Erica updates me through text. Lisa just got a promotion –again.
These are the graduates.
But this week I’ll start with a new crop of freshmen. And even as I know that most of what they’ll be going through as individuals, I’ve likely seen before, I can’t help but get caught up in those firsts.
First times are awesome.
And I still get that.
So whether they’re excited or worried, or confused, or just plain afraid, I’ll tell them that it’s okay. That it’s normal. And that in spite of the outward appearance of their fellow classmates, they are not alone.
Some of my students inadvertently flaunt their newness with the bright green beacons they wear around their necks in the form of id-toting lanyards. Others are outwardly confident, sapping from stored supplies of high school popularity, probably not understanding how quickly it can drain. But most are quietly cautious, just trying to navigate this new terrain without tripping onto a land mine, without making any mistakes.
We all make mistakes, though.
Maybe that’s the first lesson freshmen should learn, loud and clear.
Sure, we want them to succeed, not to do anything really stupid that winds them up in trouble—or worse—their first days on campus. But even if they screw up, it’s not like they will be the first ones to have done so.
I won’t tell them that –not initially anyway.
And I won’t share my own stories –probably ever.
But it’s those stories I pull from to gather empathy.
Because once upon a time, I was young. And on occasion (rare), I probably did something stupid.