It was 1963 when I began hunting for a college. The process wasn’t especially complicated 47 years ago, and I applied to three schools. Rejected by one, accepted by another and given a conditional acceptance by the third (a “yes” but I’d have to live at home), the choice was easy.
Tonight Birgitta and I are bunking on the fourth floor of the massive student union building at the University of Iowa and are scheduled for a campus tour at 8:00 AM. I attended a college with 2500 students; this university has 30,000. My school had girl-dorms and guy-dorms; this school has only co-ed housing. My college had a 10:00 PM curfew on week nights; this school keeps buildings open all night. My college covered several square blocks; this one covers several square miles. And I’m nervous.
But Birgitta is a girl who sets goals and reaches for them. She’s done diligent research, knows what she wants to study, has defined a desire to attend a big school, has applied to five universities and has been accepted by three so far. The world is opening to her, and she’s eager to walk into it while carefully considering later consequences to the decisions she’s making today.
Tonight we both missed Nate to the point of tears, knowing this was his kind of project. He would have had particular interest in the University of Iowa, because he spent one of his high school summers on this campus in an accelerated program for debaters. Had he been with us, wandering the campus this afternoon might have prompted life stories we may not have heard before. When I tried to encourage us both by suggesting Nate might know of Birgitta’s acceptance and our trip to Iowa she said, “Yes, but we can’t get his feedback.”
Well put. And we long for that which we can’t have.
But we’re trying to do our best without him, to ask the right questions and accurately retain the answers.
Birgitta is 19, living within the most critical decade of her life. It’s a difficult time to be without a dad. Between the ages of 17 and 27, the majority of American young people will make the eight most important decisions of their lives, setting the trajectory for all the years to follow:
- whether or not to attend college and if so, which one
- whether or not religious faith will matter and if so, faith in what or who
- what type of friends to choose
- what to do about addictive substances, smoking, drinking, etc.
- what career to prepare for and the first “real” job
- whether or not to marry, and if so, who
- where to live and begin putting down roots
- whether or not to have children
Talk about pressure.
Birgitta wants to be proactive about life rather than letting life just happen to her, and she knows choosing a university is her springboard. But she’ll have to find a balance between being diligent in decisions she can control and planning a future she can’t. Landing on that sweet spot in the middle is a venture even seasoned adults find difficult. But though she misses the advice her earthly father would have given her, something tells me Birgitta will do alright, because she knows how to access the counsel of her heavenly Father.
“Be wise… Make the most of every opportunity.” (Colossians 4:5)