“Where do you want to go to college?” I remember people asking me this question when I was a junior in high school. I had a couple of ideas, but I was not quite sure. I was very surprised when people started asking my daughter the same question when she was in eighth grade. She had not given much thought to what she wanted for lunch. How could she be expected to know where she wanted to go to college?
When she said she was not sure, she would often get the response, “You need to start thinking about it. It is not too early to start building your resume.” Every time she mentioned an activity she was involved with, people would evaluate it in terms of how it would look on a college application.
Before the end of her sophomore year, an acquaintance asked me if she was going to spend all summer studying for the ACT. “All summer?” I thought. “You can get a 15-year-old to spend an entire summer studying for the ACT?” I had never considered that possibility.
“She will not be spending much time studying for the ACT,” I admitted, “She will be spending the summer in Seoul, South Korea.”
I braced myself for the reproach that would certainly come. Then I added, “She will be studying Korean.”
“Wow!” he said. “That will look great on a college application.” By the look on his face, I could tell that he thought I had found the holy grail of things to add to a college application.
To be honest, when my wife and I discussed whether we would allow her to go to Korea with a friend to visit her friend’s grandparents, the topic of college applications never came up. The first question was whether our daughter would be safe. After making certain she would, we talked about the fact that this could be a once in a lifetime experience. We hoped that she would enjoy the summer. We liked the idea that she would experience a different culture.
I wonder if we are teaching our children to be so focused on preparing for the future that they are missing the present. Are they missing the years when they can develop a passion for something that will make the future meaningful?
I do think preparation for the future is important. The danger is, however, that we might miss the present. I remember the summers I spent climbing in Rocky Mountain National Park when I should have been studying for the ACT. On my desk, I keep a photograph of myself, ice axe in hand, standing next to a sign that reads, “CAUTION: OPEN AND HIDDEN CREVASSES. DESCENT MAY BE HAZARDOUS.” The descent did nothing for my college application, but it did prepare me for life in ways that I never would have been prepared if I had been focused on building a resume.
I have been a priest for 16 years. I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010. If anyone would find it interesting I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.