Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Leaving the nest (more college musings)

Yesterday I wrote a little bit about why fresh, brand-new adults shouldn't just rush off to college because that's what they're expected to do. Today I'm going to take a different tack and discuss why young adults should leave home and go far, far away for a time (even if it's not to college). My departure from home to head across the country was once described by someone who had no idea what they were talking about as "getting away as soon as she could." It's true that I was eager to head off to college, but I was running towards something new, not away from what I had known. And while I am very glad that I live closer to my family again (and hope to be much closer someday), I cherish the time I had to find myself, away from anyone with preconceived notions about me.

Please forgive me for being cliche, but I belive I gained much from leaving the nest that would have been difficult to achieve if I had remained in my comfort zone, surrounded by my beloved friends and family. My abilities, my confidence, and my beliefs were tested -- and held true. Of course, support was only a phone call or IM away (remember when you learned how to IM, Mom? You were a pro!). But I knew that how I responded to "life tests" truly reflected me and my choices, because nobody around me had any idea what to expect. So I learned a lot about myself, my strengths and my weaknesses. I learned that sometimes it was better to skip a movie and study my notes, and sometimes it was better to skip class and sit with my back to a tree, thinking. There was a level of freedom from expectations and outside obligations that is somewhat unique to that phase of life, and should be embraced. Any dream was possible, and no one would crush it simply because they thought they knew who I was.

Maybe a lot of these lessons could be learned just as easily from moving somewhere not quite so "far, far" away. I have friends who remained closer to home and I don't think they have an identity crisis or anything like that. I can only relate my experience, and I know that I will encourage my children to test their wings somewhere "new" for at least a year when their time comes -- all the while fervently hoping they will return and stay close for the rest of their lives!

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