I couldn't help myself. I had to sneak a peak.
She had just wedged herself in to the tiny middle seat beside me and we exchanged the usual pleasantries. I learned that she was a college swimmer flying home to Michigan with the rest of her team after a big meet in North Carolina.
Normally, I would jump at the chance to talk to a college student about her experience--after all, my job is helping high school students find a college that best fits them. However, I was tired after a long week of travel and had a headache to boot. I had also spent part of what was supsposed to be a "sister vacation" managing the onslaught of phone calls, texts, and emails I was receiving from my clients who were hearing final decisions from colleges.
Over and over again throughout my getaway the ding of my phone brought sighs of dread from my sisters, as they knew that with each new ding, I would be pulled away again. Some were ecstatic, others were dramatic, and some were just plain erratic. I was trying my best to help my students keep these decisions in perspective, but moreso than in years past, feeling inadequate about my ability to do so.
So, I slipped on my headphones and hit play, hoping to get lost in my podcast in the two hour flight back to Detroit.
But then she pulled it out. A red and pink journal scattered with large flowers. She opened up halfway through the pages and began to write in large bubbly letters that reminded me of my own days of writing in my jounral as a college student. I couldn't resist the urge to sneak a peak.
I know, I know...but I looked anways.
After reading the first line, I stopped.
It was simple, but powerful.
"God, I have grown so much this year."
I needed to see this. My students need to see this.
Why? Because we all need a gentle reminder of what college is truly about--particularly in this time of acceptances, denials, and waitlists. We all get caught up in the decision, rather than in the EXPERIENCE--the experience of college. As much as we debate what the true purpose of college is, I believe at the heart of a meaningful college experience is precisely what my travel companion wrote to herself in her journal. College is about growth--social, emotional, academic, and otherwise. It is about taking the good and bad and making the best of it all to come out the other side a bit wiser and more prepared for the real world.
I can only imagine that a year previous, this young woman sitting next to me might have been fretting about where, or even if, she would attend college. However, something happens when you begin to focus less on the decision, and more on what you do AFTER the decision. About getting excited about the seemingly limitless opportunities that await you no matter where you ultimately choose to attend college.
So as I plunge head first back into the college admissions decision madness that is the end of March, I'll remind myself and my students of that young woman's words of wisdom that I shouldn't have seen--that they'll experience the good, the bad, the difficult, the joyous and that my hope is that they come out on the other side and can simply say, "God, I have grown so much this year!"