If I were the type of mother who tucked handwritten notes into her kid’s lunch box or if my daughter, the delightful Fangette, was the type of kid who would read such a thing, I’d pack the following list into the suitcase that’s sitting on her bed — the one that’s bound, in just a few short days, for her new digs on a college campus six hours away. I’m not that mother, she’s not that kid. As there is a much better chance that she’ll read the list if I post it here than if I stuff it in with her winter socks, I’ve compiled what I’m calling “The 12 Things Fangette Needs For College”. Feel free to substitute any name for “Fangette” if you find that this list appeals to your “Ashley”, your “Sara” or, horror of horrors and shame on you!, your “Gertrude”. Perhaps, if you have the kind of kid that will appreciate such a thing, stick it in with her mittens, let her run across it as she’s heading to class one cold, snowy morning.
And then, go ahead and have a nice cup of coffee and a good cry. I know that’s what I’m going to do.
THE 12 THINGS FANGETTE NEEDS FOR COLLEGE
1. Big Girl Panties
You may need two pairs of these, they tend to get hole-y when they get in a bunch. And they will get in a bunch, possibly as a result of the roommate who doesn’t understand that you need an open window in order to sleep or who does not share your love of the HBO dramedy “Girls”, or the professors who think theirs is the only damn class you’re taking, or even the realization that dining halls do not stock an endless supply of romaine lettuce. Put them on every day and go out into the world and behave like the adult that we have raised you to be. You’ll be fine. Call me if you’re not. I’m always awake.
2. Common Sense
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. There are no shortcuts in life. You can shave a few minutes off a task here and there, but life, unlike traffic, is about going through, not skirting around. Don’t get frustrated. Enjoy the ride.
You are very good at sizing people up. You have surrounded yourself with good friends here at home — friends that love you, friends that look out for you (and vice versa) — continue this practice while you are away. It will serve you well.
4. Time Management Skills
There will always be a party. Conversely, there will also always be a test that you should be studying for or a paper you should have gotten cracking on yesterday. Strike a balance here.
5. Sense of Humor
You’ve got a wicked one. Use it. Don’t take everything so seriously. Again, it’s about balance here, kiddo.
This one will be difficult, as it is antithetical to who you are. You are always the first person your friends call when they’re in a bind. I’m not saying NOT to help people, but keep in mind that your time and your energies will be important to your success. Keep your guard up for people who will look to squander those things. They won’t have your best interests at heart.
7. Moral Compass
You have on more than one occasion demonstrated that you know right from wrong. Always choose to do right. If doing so has consequences, so be it. Hopefully you’ll be wearing your big girl panties when and if you find yourself in a moral quandary.
8. Emergency $20
In cash. Always, and I mean, ALWAYS have this with you. You never know when or in what circumstances you may need it. If you use it, replace it. Always have it, though. Always. Tow truck drivers and cabbies always appreciate a nice cash tip.
Do not leave home without this. Do not surrender who you are or forget why you are where you are or, more importantly, what got you there because some cute “love ’em and leave ’em” type gives you the old heave-ho or you bomb a big test. Heartbreak happens. Failure is a given. They’re both part of life. Don’t go running after some loser. Study harder next time. Don’t despair. Move along. Someone better will come along. If you work hard, you’ll pass the next exam. Keep your eyes on the prize. Use the Emergency $20 and buy yourself some good quality ice cream.
10. Mental Trampoline
Keep in mind that a chick flick, a good cry, and pint of chocolate chip mint will, in moderation, solve a whole host of problems. Setbacks are bound to occur. You’ll rebound. Your mental trampoline is in good condition. Know that it’s perfectly acceptable, once in a while, to take a couple of hours, retreat from the world, and indulge in this passive, but worthwhile, activity. It may be just what you need to face the world tomorrow. Wild parties, binge drinking, and sexual escapades might sound like a cure for what ails you, but they won’t be. (I’m fairly certain that you know this already.) Stick to the ice cream and the movie. Watch “The Notebook”, I know you love that one. Or, if you’re feeling nostalgic, pop in “The Sound of Music”. We always enjoyed watching that one together. Comfort food and a good movie never left anybody hung over — or worse. You can always run off the ice cream pounds. Pregnancy weight and beer guts are much harder to shed. So, too, is that image you’ll have of yourself standing half-clothed on a frat house table with a lampshade on your head.
You have a tendency toward reticence. This is a time to try new things. Not all of these things need to involve tequila. Although I’m sure there will be a few margaritas in your future, go easy on the tequila. It’s a hallucinogen, not to mention that it is, by far, the nastiest hangover you will ever experience. That being said, I would encourage you to seek out opportunities for fulfillment. Don’t stand on the sidelines making snarky comments — make the snarky comments while participating in the activities — safe activities like Quidditch or syrup-making come to mind. Or quilting. Quilting can be loads of fun. Quilting circles are known far and wide for their riotous banter.
If these things don’t appeal to you, keep in mind that you’ll be in a place where the cows outnumber the people. (Remember that fun fact?) Do something with animals — and not just the animals that live in the frat houses — real animals, the four-legged kind that you enjoy so very much. Just a word of caution on the cows, though — I read yesterday that there are more people (over 100!) killed every year in unfortunate bovine accidents than there are folks who perish as a result of shark attacks. Lake Champlain is probably free of sharks, but do keep your wits about you where the cows are concerned. Stay in front of them if you can.
12. The Knowledge That Your Parents Love You — No Matter What
I would hope that you have always known this, but it bears repeating. Win or lose, succeed or fail, through thick and through thin — we have survived. We’ve done so partly because that’s just what we do. It is who we, as a family, are. Mainly, though, we’ve managed to tackle life’s challenges together because we love each other. We are, all of us, flawed, imperfect creatures. Still, we’ve never given up on each other. I cannot imagine that we ever will.
Nor can I think of a single thing, not one single thing, that you could ever do that would cause either your father or me to stop loving you. Not one single thing. Not ever. While living with you has not always been a picnic, particularly during these last few years of adolescence, you have never failed to make us proud — of your academic success, of your athletic prowess, and of your social graces. As you’ve gone out into the world we’ve always gotten, as Grammy Rose used to say, “good reports” — about the qualities that make you “you” — your kindness, your intelligence, your generosity, and, of course, your quick wit. I have witnessed the joy that your laughter and your radiant smile brings to others. That’s a rare gift that you have there. Keep using it. Keep smiling. Keep laughing. Keep on being you. You’ll be just fine.
If you’re not fine, tell us. We’ll help you through it. Really. We will. You know we will. Remember, I’m always awake.