Monday, September 10, 2007

First Day of School

Several people have asked me what I speak on when I do these college programs: enerally, I speak on three main topics: (1) "Coming Out," issues, (2) HIV education, and (3) general New Student Orientation. #2 is a result of my former job with the health department, working as an HIV counselor; #1 is a snap, as my "coming out" story involved going on a TV show.

But #3 is tough.

One day I found a letter from a mother to a daughter--someone printed it out and left it for trash, and I grabbed it when I needed a scrap piece of paper. Luckily I turned it over and glanced at what I was writing on. Within a matter of two pages, this mother conveyed what every college kid needs to hear, much more poignantly and effectively than I could ever conceive. From there, my New Student Orientation lecture was born. I've edited it down, taken out all the personal references and inside-jokes; part of the letter is here:

~~~





Dear ____,

This is the moment I looked forward to all my life. However it is also the moment I fear: seeing my beautiful little baby move on and live her own life. My job is done--I have given you wings to fly and I am proud of your flight. You have helped me become the woman I am as we grew together.

Remember, be safe. Be with another girl in the room if you are going to hang out with boys in your room, or in his room. If you must and you are alone, keep the door open. And if you are alone in your room, it is okay to them they cannot come in.

Do not accept drinks from anyone. Get them yourself. Don't leave your drink and come back to it.

You have only one body; you have only one soul. Take care of it.

If someday you decide this school is not for you and you do not know what you want, it is okay. Be proud that you found out. Make your life's decision based on what is true for you and not what is true for me or your dad. And your room will always be available for you when you want to go home for a visit, for a homesick fix, for a good-cry-break-up fix, for the holidays. And remember to IM me for money. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that part.

I remember your first day in school. My heart was broken. I could not leave school. Your teacher finally asked if I wanted to volunteer.

I remember your first flight alone on a plane. It was nerve-wracking. I must have looked at the clock more than a hundred times counting the minutes until you were picked up at the airport.

I remember when I first left you with a babysitter to go to work. I'd come home for lunch just to see you. And I remember the first time you didn't come running to me. That brought tears to my eyes.

Nobody told me how much harder it is to let go of you when you go off to college. I feel like I am starting all over again, but this time I am giving you away. I know, however, you will be just great. No matter where you are.

I love you. I am proud of you. I remember when you were born like it was yesterday.

Love, Mom


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