"If you love someone, set them free. If they return they are yours."
Parents have their own way of dealing with their children growing into adults and ultimately moving out for the first time. Never having the experience myself, I don't pretend to know what that must be like, but I can recount how my dad reacted to that fact some seven years ago when I moved away for college.
Not having a clue what I wanted to pursue after high school, I decided the best step was to figure it out through community college and not waste time and or money through University level priced tuition. It was the year 2007 and I was finishing up my associates degree at Fullerton College, when the decision deadline was coming down to the wire. I had been accepted to the three state schools I applied to: CSUF, CSULB, or SFSU. The question of the hour though was, do I stay local and stay safe, or do I go out on a limb, take a risk and move up to the metropolis of San Francisco to finish my BA?
Knowing what my folks wanted me to choose, I decided (intentionally) not to talk to them about my decision. This was going to be my decision; I had to live with the decision; so I sure as hell wasn't going have a skewed conversation pressure me any one way. Looking back, I think I knew - really all along - what my decision would be; I just waited until the last day to finally put in my intent to register to San Francisco State University!
And I'll never forget my parents' reaction. I'm sitting at the family computer in a fairly common area in our house, taking care of the task at hand, when my mom chimes in from the other end of the common area:
"Whatcha doing over there.?"
"Umm...taking care of some school business..." Vague answer, I know.
"What kind of school business?"
"Umm...well I'm putting in my intent to register for the school of my choice."
My mom's interest and attention perks up noticeably.
"Oh yea?! What school is that?!"
"Umm...(as I hesitate)...San Francisco State University."
The conversation from there really is a blur of shock, surprise and a bit of 20 questions on logistics. The following morning I went about my day as usual: class, work, etc when I recall having a missed call and voice-mail from none other than my dad. Something to keep in mind: my dad never called me from work, unless it was an emergency, or tax related (as he did my tax return from the time I had a job). As I listened to my dad's voice, the tone was very stern, very urgent, very shocked, but also very concerned. The conversation I later had with him and my mother was a lot of...
"I thought you were going to stay local..."
"Why do you wanna move so far away???"
"Why didn't you discuss this decision with us before hand???"
"Have you thought of the cost of living up there?!"
"You know your mother and I are only paying for your tuition; which means you have to find a way to pay for books and the cost of living."
"Have you been looking into living arrangements??"
All this was said with an undertone of...why didn't you choose Long Beach or Fullerton, it would've made more sense..
Obviously, I stuck with my initial decision, and that summer of 2007 leading up to my first fall semester living in the city by the bay, was quite a whirl wind of weekend road trips that included new student orientations; checking out the lay of the campus as well as the city, and not to mention meeting some distant family for the first time who are not too far from the cable car streets of SF; scouring craigslist for a place to live followed by some interesting encounters by some eclectic potential housemates and landlords.
Alls well that ended well though. Two weeks before classes began I was moved into a house living with three other students whom all of us jived well together; I had a student loan to supplement my cost of living; I was on the job hunt; and I was completely and blissfully unaware of how much the next three years ahead were going to challenge, break, shape, and redefine me. Arguably, those years were some of the best years of my life as I grew into myself, in a city that I truly learned to love.
Through all the tasks of preparation; road trips; and follow ups on paperwork and registration for classes my dad never said much more on the topic of my decision to move away for college. Although, he did sometimes comment on San Francisco's "backwards politics," which he and I later often bantered back and forth on, as I began to rethink some of my own political opinions. "San Francisco ruined you," he'd like to say to me with a playful smile.
But I digress. He was a quite and strong presence though as he would frequently keep me on point to take care of business; even when I was lost in the process or overwhelmed, he was there to kick me in the pants. He had this saying that he'd like to often repeat to me; be it to me, or in reference to someone else...
"You're an adult. I've done my part to raise you. As an adult, you have decisions to make, and they are your decisions alone; I can't make them for you; and it's you who have to live with the decisions; not me. So while, I might not always agree or understand some of your choices, it's your life not mine. And unless these decisions are harmful to you, I'm going to keep my opinion to myself."
And he did! I imagine it was a hard realization that his daughter was not just moving out of the house, but moving a distance away (like most things, he kept his emotions close to his chest), nonetheless he was there helping me prepare for that next chapter in my life; he was there helping me prepare for that defining decision. Regardless if he agreed or understood my need to move away for college; regardless of the fact that it probably broke his heart to see his daughter fly the coop, he was there, supportive of the decision. And that kind of reaction - while sometimes convoluted - was and is love! He let me go; he set me free; and you know...I came back to him, and for him.