I haven't blogged in quite some time as my focus was completing The College Audition Process: A Survival Guide in time for college application season. Finally, I've found time for another entry and update. Our daughter has officially survived her first six weeks of college! Before you read on, understand that she has found her place and has settled-in, but not without some uncertainty. I didn't know six weeks was a milestone, until I found myself desperately seeking help with this transition round about week two and a half. I knew that the loneliness she would encounter would be difficult, but her unique scenario quickly resulted in some important lessons. Some we've learned and some we are still learning.
1) College in NYC is college on steroids
We expected our daughter to hit many of the typical college transitional speed bumps, but there were just some things we didn't expect. If you're not living in a big city, and your student chooses NYC or another large city for college, keep in mind that everything will be bigger, louder and bolder. Lonely times are lonelier. Rainy times are rainier. Empty pockets are emptier.
2) Packing for NYC
We'd done our homework with regard to packing for college in the city. Many current and former students blog or share comments regarding how to best prepare for living and packing to live in NYC. We definitely didn't overpack and, can I be honest? I actually think we rocked this part. We all flew up to drop her off and visit Marymount Manhattan College. Each of us packed a bag for ourselves and took a second bag for her. That worked out wonderfully, and we ended-up with so much extra packing space, that we brought items we'd planned on purchasing in the city. You'll see in a moment why this was a good move.
3) The Shopping Capital?
Many of these bloggers and current students said, "You can find anything in New York. It's the shopping capital of the US, so you can always buy it if you forget something or can't fit it in your luggage." Well, apparently, these folks weren't trying to find a twin sized comforter, accompanying mattress pad and cover during college move-in week. This was honestly the most stressful part. Visiting five stores in Tampa is a relative piece of cake. Visiting five stores in Manhattan that carry bedding meant traveling all over the city. It was very stressful and exhausting. The folks who pre-purchased at Bed, Bath and Beyond shared that it entailed an additional level of stress. First world problems, I know. But reality if your kid wants to see the dorm room before buying the "stuff".
4) Big City Life
Current students advised us to not purchase the full meal plan because these students don't eat in the commons like they might at a traditional college, or like I did pretty much three meals a day when I went to college. Planning for this was a good move. Micah has become a master at budgeting, shopping at Trader Joe's, maneuvering the mass transit system, finding time alone in Central Park, and walking. Walking a lot and very fast. All the things a student slowly and steadily learns while venturing into the independence of college life is mastered VERY rapidly in the city.
Loneliness is a reality for all college students, but compounded with the big city, a 1,000 mile separation, introversion, and no other freshman for roommates, she encountered this at a very high level. It was so intense, in fact, that at one point I wasn't sure if she was going to be able to make it work. But, as we'd hoped and prayed, breakthroughs occurred, expectations changed, and the discussions turned to other things beyond missing her familiar life that was defined throughout high school. Breakthroughs occurred for "the family back home" as well. I have been transitioning from the past six years of directing my own daughters in productions back to the days when they weren't involved. It's been a good thing that has only begun to settle-in for me.
6) Parenting Long Distance
I was completely oblivious to this being a factor at all. I relished when my daughters began to develop independent ideas, independent habits, independent use of time. I was genuinely looking forward to her spreading her wings and finding herself. The first several weeks required more time on the phone and texting than I'd anticipated. When I was able to visit a couple weeks ago while traveling for a conference, she was still in a rut, and that made the visit and the discussions we had a little hard. But, we also had some talks about how the exhausting audition process the prior year solidified her decision. We worked through some hypothetical scenarios, and that seemed to help her come to terms with options that weren't feasible and that trying to make life easier right now would put a wrench in her "new life". I still have specific parent questions that come-up, but they are much closer to what I anticipated.
It's amazing the difference a few weeks can make. All the blogs and resources I discovered when looking for help directed us to wait: "Give this transition time, and don't let her come home for six weeks". That was good advice. I'm prepared for the occasional meltdowns that will likely occur, because the performing arts provide AMPLE opportunities for these, and am grateful for the strides she has taken. In time, we were able to settle into the fact that this would be more difficult than we expected, but are grateful for the lessons learned by both our daughter and our family back home.