Spring break was a memory maker spent with eight mothers and eight daughters indulging in the sun, surf and sand in surprisingly quiet Playa del Carmen in Mexico. We saw armed guards but no miscreants and never feared for our safety. We shopped in empty stores, enjoyed water aerobics, salsa dancing, watered-down exotic cocktails and walks on the beach.
We agreed that what happens in Mexico stays in Mexico, so further details will not be forthcoming.
But there is something we'd like to share. As we lounged by the beach, we moms reflected on what we wish we'd known when we were our daughters' age; what we now know; and what we'd like our girls to know. So to them and all June graduates, we offer counsel we could have used many decades ago, the reflections of mothers who have walked different paths but will launch our girls together with love and pride:
The world has changed dramatically since you were born 18 years ago. Three women have served as secretary of state and several have run for president. Terrorists attacked us on our own soil so we pack our toiletries in ridiculously small Baggies when we travel. We communicate on miniscule keyboards and multi-task like mad. We have that thing called the Internet that connects you instantaneously to the cute guys you met in Mexico (oops)!
Soon you will leave the protective shelter of home and school. You might be stunned to learn how much it costs to support yourself and that life as portrayed by the Kardashians is fantasy, not reality.
As mothers, we cannot protect you from what we know to be reality: that life will bring joy and pain, opportunities and obstacles. We have done our best to prepare you to navigate it all. But in case you’ve missed the lessons, we offer you this missive to carry in your minds and souls. If you should misplace it, we are always just a phone call — or a text — away.
The first year of college may be hard. You will need to figure out how to be a juggler — when to strive for moderation and when to push the limits. You will need to manage your time and your finances. It could take awhile to master the art of balancing laundry, exams, a social life and maybe even a job. Be patient. Be resourceful. Be confident. Relish the empowerment that competence and independence breed.
You’ll need to be your own advocate in ways you may not imagine right now. You might miss a deadline on a paper and need to negotiate with your professor. Your roommate might have nonstop visitors; your tiny abode might become a toxic wasteland. Don’t suffer in silence, but be respectful. Respect is a two-way street.
Regardless of how it may appear, drinking is not an NCAA sport. No matter what others are doing, saying, or thinking, you will never regret making good choices, though it may not feel that way at the time. Be your own person, awkward as that may be.
If you decide to drink, learn your tolerance. Use the buddy system. Relinquish your car keys. Many people have addictive tendencies and you don’t want to discover yours the messy way. Do you want to be one of those girls who slams shots to get inebriated and ends the evening with mascara cascading down her face?
College can be a blast but it can also be stressful. Whatever you are struggling with, you will get through it — and you need not face it alone. Take a risk and open up to others. When a friend or roommate is feeling blue, reach out. You might save a life.
There is a correlation between effort and outcome. Ninety-nine percent of anything is what you put into it. Push yourself. Work toward something you never thought you could do. Run a marathon. Choose a finish line and experience the exhilaration of crossing it. Dig deep and finish strong.
Choosing your major may be overwhelming. Take time to discover your passion and nurture it, even if there are naysayers who don’t believe in you. Embrace your gifts. If you do what you are passionate about you will find contentment. Everything else — money included — will work out. Keep an open mind. Many things you think could never happen do.
You are in the prime of your life. There are endless products and services to enhance your appearance, but it will change as you age. (You may have noticed that time and gravity aren’t always kind to moms in swimsuits). Don’t neglect your inner beauty, for it is what will draw people in and truly define you. Be the go-to friend who is a good listener and protects others’ confidences. Learn to accept and give compliments with grace and sincerity.
While you mostly communicate with digital devices, adults actually talk to one another. Explore the world. Read books. Study abroad. Sharing something you love makes you intriguing, exceptional, and desirable. Master the art of conversation by having something interesting to say.
And please call home.