Sometimes it sticks. I can prove it.
After years of dishing out unwanted but — if I may say — much-needed college advice, affirmation finally arrived. It appeared on a scrap piece of paper atop a large pile of laundry scribbled with the words, “Wash Pants Cold! Please.” The laundry advice had been mastered. Check. He would look presentable in class despite having no clue where this education of his was leading. I counted it a victory.
It was Nate’s freshmen year when my unwanted college advice began to creep into my final goodbye. Isn’t this the time when advice is needed the most, despite it being wanted the least? Why does a high school diploma immediately translate into essential practical knowledge of something never before attempted?
As the time of departure became imminent, my body grew tense. It was like a “Last Lecture” of sorts, only crammed into about 10 seconds. Memorable, I hoped, but more importantly, executed. That was my goal as I spouted out my departing words, “No permanent damage: No unexpected trips to the hospital. No time in jail. No babies. And absolutely no tattoos!” A little dramatic, perhaps, but solid advice for a freshman in a faraway land — Boston no less.
Year two was slightly milder and composed, although I did lose it again. “Find your people and a community of faith,” I mumbled through my tears. This couldn’t be too difficult when Boston has the most concentrated student population per capita in the country; it would be impossible for people not to find you. And with the steps of St. Ignatius Cathedral no more than 100 yards from his dorm, along with an interfaith chapel behind the building, my recommendation sounded reasonable. Nailed that one, at least logistically.
Junior year seemed to be the obvious time to mention, “Find your path or at least pick one by the end of this year.” After locating, purchasing, and hauling furniture to an apartment all weekend, I was too exhausted to cry, even when my flight was cancelled — twice. I don’t remember anything else other than hot flashes greeting me upon arrival at my empty home.
Now, with senior year upon us, it’s my last chance. My mind dances from practical to philosophical, but lands on the same thought, “Build lasting relationships.” When the final book is read, paper is composed, and true last lecture is complete, I hope my son — and his sister, too — not only build skills for the real world but form relationships that will last their lifetime. The ability and commitment to build relationships will impact decisions, friendships, faith, and whatever path is chosen. It’s funny how this advice encompasses all the others, and in just three words.
I hope this one sticks as well as the laundry advice.