On creativity, growth, and freshman orientation

It’s the time of year when kids go back to school and people on the precipice of adulthood go off the college — some for the first time. This year it seems like everyone I know is the parent of a 17- or 18-year-old who is starting college, so my social media feeds are full of photos of Move In Day(s).

It’s a rite of passage — one of many that I, a person without children, have not been through.


Move-In Day, 1948 , from University of Mary Washington

Two things: 1) I barely recall being dropped off at college for the first time. I know my mom took me. I remember she had a perm at the time. There’s a photo of us somewhere and I’m wearing cargo pants. She might have been sad to leave me, but that’s not how I remember it.

So the going-off-to-college initiation is likely more impactful for parents, because the teenager’s life up to that point has been nothing but change, nothing but new experiences. It’s been school and life lessons and body morphing. College is of all of that (on steroids) with different scenery and less adult supervision.

It’s the parents who, after the college drop-off, go home to a weirdly empty house and have to figure out what the hell is supposed to give their lives meaning now. (At least this is how I, a childless person, imagine it.)

2) For people who don’t have children — even by choice — not experiencing those larger social landmarks that exist around raising kids is a bit like not being invited to a party. An expensive, pukey, annoying party, but a party nonetheless, and no one ever wants to be left off the guest list.

So I’ve been thinking about what, in my life, is the equivalent of the taking-a-kid-to-college rite of passage. What have I been nurturing and am now ready to send off into the world? What projects have come to fruition or are ready for a next phase? What parts of myself are at the end of teenage-hood and are ready to take those first steps into adulthood? What parts of myself would I gift with higher education, what would I entrust to outside teachers for further shaping and honing, what am I ready to introduce to the finishing school of advanced human experience?

When framed in the college-drop-off archetype, it feels right on time that I’m considering and planning how to grow my spoken-word collaborations into a one-person show. It’s both a move of claiming some autonomy and of submitting my ideas to the university of the universe. UniverSITY. Of taking stock of what I’ve learned so far and making a move that will further my education.

In a way, writing is always about sending ourselves off to higher education. It’s always about going back to school. Equal parts awkward, terrifying and thrilling. Hopefully the roommate will be cool, the food won’t suck, and after the initial dips and lurches of the emotional roller coaster, we’ll find ourselves climbing to a new altitude and glimpsing an image of our potential as artists. As humans. You know, before the ride careens wildly, terrifyingly, thrillingly onto the next rite of passage.

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