In this morning's excellent article on the two brothers who terrorized Boston and the rest of the country, a sentence and a quote jumped out at me. The younger brother was quoted as saying that "Going from High School to College is totally different" - which might not seem like a very stupendous comment in the overall scheme of things, but if we want to help our young people, especially our male children, mature into people who can flourish within society, we need to understand this transition from high school to college.
See the book by my friend Nick Tingle, titled Self Development and College Writing, which helped me understand what my 19 year old freshmen writing students were struggling with.
I wish I could take the time to develop these thoughts in more depth, but I have a project due for a client, and a son getting married in two weeks. And both my sons have had bad experiences with me being on the internet for hours and days as I try to fathom the world that we live in. They have their own PTSD from having grown up as my children. But the thing I want to share with you is this: Going from high school to college is as different as going from one culture to another. It is as difficult a transition as a young person can make.
There are so many factors in this story that have resonance with me. The thing I keep thinking about is the student from Daphne, Alabama who is noted for being on a terrorist watch list - another young man who was trying to live between two cultures - his mother's southern baptist upbringing and his father's. There have been many times in my life when I have met people who do not belong to one single group, but who have been divided in their identity, confused about where they belong, and perhaps a bit different than the norm. If you don't do anything else this morning, read the story about the two brothers which is on the website, a very excellent piece of collaborative journalism.
As a young flight attendant from Alabama, but even before that, as a young girl at a women's college and then a co=ed at Auburn, and finally a student at a handful of colleges and universities, I know what it's like to not fit in. As an artist, a writer, and a divorced mother, as a person who lives a life very different from the norm even today as I prepare for my son's wedding, I know what it's like to be "unusual" and eccentric, to struggle to be understood, to be valued for who you are, not who someone expects you to be. As we try to understand this young man, who drove over his own brother in an attempt to survive what must have been the most terrifying night of his life, as it was for us all a terrifying week, and even as we try to understand what it is like for any immigrant who tries to become a member of another country in a world too quick to label and too lazy to get to know the rest of the world, I ask you to consider what it must be like to be a stranger in a country where what is valued is being like everyone else.
My sons are always telling me that I don't understand the world. They don't say that, but they imply that there is an accepted way to "be" and that I don't quite make it. After my car was stolen out of my driveway, a car given to me by my sister because I couldn't afford one, and after my son loaned me a car to drive which was then totalled by an uninsured motorist, I decided to give up owning a car. I have a 1972 bicycle which I ride when I can, but mostly I depend on my elderly next door neighbor who has a car he isn't allowed to drive, so I help him get his groceries and he helps me by letting me get my groceries at the same time. I manage.
As a recently unemployed senior citizen who finally for the first time in my life has an income called Social Security, I am beginning to find my footing again after this long slog through the two wars and the economic disaster we've been living through. I, like many others, have no other income. As an artist and a writer, as well as a graphic designer, all of which I now have "certification" to claim as my titles (and a horrendous student loan bill as well) I am about to hang out my shingle as an illustrator/artist, something I have wanted to do since I was in high school myself.
I may not get many big clients, but I will have accomplished something that was my mother's and my father's dream for me. It was not clear to me when I left high school for college what an illustrator did, but my parents were encouraged by a local artist to send me to the best art school they could afford, because I had "more talent than he had" apparently. I remember him clearly in his booming voice telling me how to develop a portrait, how to begin a painting with burnt sienna on a flat gray panel of masonite, and how to study the human figure or any subject by painting it every day, 365 days a year. Only after a year of painting a subject, he would say, do you fully know it well enough to paint it.
After my mother died in my senior year in high school, I was not able to find a footing in college, even though my father tried twice to get me there. Once to a woman's college where I promptly got pregnant, had a very expensive California abortion and dropped out. Then, less than a month later, my father had finagled a way for me to attend the other school on my list, the university where he and my mother met, and where I met within days of setting foot on the campus the man I would marry three years later. In those three years I tried to assimilate, attempted to put words on paper for essays and attempted to absorb World History in a room with 365 other students, at a time when I was reeling from the discovery of my own sexuality, the tumult of the early 70s and the terror of a war we were losing. I found myself once again breaking my father's heart,by flunking out of Auburn, using up my grandmothers' patience and love while I determined that I would need to find a different way to live.
I found that as a stewardess in 1970. I began a seven year career that helped me more than anything else did to learn who I was, who I wanted to be, and who I was capable of being. And that person was a mother. I had the joy of giving birth to not one but two sons. They have always been the joy of my life. They have also been heartache as I watched them struggle to be the men they have become, despite the troubled marriage and divorce their father and I went through. And now both are engaged, and one of them is about to be married to a woman with a beautiful little girl that calls me Nana.
The other one is trying to navigate a relationship with a woman he loves who has a daughter who calls me GMAW. I love them both - the names a grandchild calls me don't matter. What matters is that they get to see me for who I am, not someone who is too poor to buy a car, or too lazy to get a job, but as someone who is an artist, a writer, and a graphic designer, and yes, perhaps, an illustrator. Oh, and a blogger. A democrat. A progressive who believes in a world with out war. Who believes in truth, as much as we can know it. And someone who had better get busy and find something to wear to the bridesmaid's luncheon five hours from now.
Read the story. Let me know what you see in the two brothers story. I want to know. But I might not answer any of your comments for a while because, well, I've got a few things to do first.