Welcome to our new section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute(please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
For most people, August 22, 2018 wasn’t a day of great import. In fact, by most measures it was unremarkable. Even the temperature in my town (Hollis, NH) was perfectly average at 81 degrees. But it will go down as one of the most memorable days in my life. My daughter and baby, Madeleine, left for college.
It’s a day we dream of as parents — to see our children go off to start the next exciting phase of their life’s journey. But it’s also the day we dread from the first moments we laid eyes on them as babies. It’s the day we let go of our official parenting duty and set our children free, crossing our fingers that the lessons we taught them along the way will serve them well and keep them safe. It’s also the day we come home to an empty house for the first time and begin the next phase of our own life’s journey as empty nesters. It was one of the most beautiful, ugly (my crying!), exhilarating, terrifying, loud, and painfully quiet “average” days I’ve ever experienced.
The change was nearly paralyzing for me, which — as a corporate executive who has managed countless changes throughout her career — says a lot. Whenever I experience change, I always have an obsessive need to look back, remember my past experiences (good or bad), and set myself free to move forward. So, I spent the night of Saturday, August 25 looking through old photos from my college days and imagining what was ahead for my Madeleine.
Unfortunately, it didn’t work. You see, Madeleine and I are very different people — complete opposites in many ways. Every time I tried to imagine Madeleine in “my shoes” at college, I quickly realized that it wouldn’t be or feel the same for her. Also, as evidenced by my “mall chick” college photo, much has changed since 1983… and that’s a good thing!