28 July 2011

Learned my lesson

It's been a succession of cardboard cutout hotels with ghastly continental breakfasts (as a travel veteran, I keep a supply of real food close at hand. Thank god for apples) and dead boring information sessions.

Georgetown and Princeton are winning. The son was positively beaming after visiting both.

And I find myself with slight regret wishing for a do-over. I have the sense that I could have done so much more. But the journey is what it has been. I've done what I could with what I had. If things had gone differently, I wouldn't be here now with my child.

I knew nothing going into the college search. I had no assistance or advice. Neither of my parents had a college education, though both had attended schools. I was mostly on my own in figuring out the process. All I had on my side was a determination to get out.

So I probably seem overbearing to the son. Look for this, I tell him. Listen for that. I worry that I'm doing this right, that I'm doing right by him.

And yet, the weary admissions officers seem to be echoing what I've been telling him for years. They seem as uninterested in the "cookbook" as I have been. They want a person, not a test score. Success comes from within, and I hear so much subtext in their careful choice of words.

In between, there have been battlefields and encampments. I haven't seen much of the Northeast myself, and there is plenty to think about in quiet fields where battles once raged.

Meanwhile, as is often the case when I am away from home, chaos seems to rage elsewhere. The horror in Norway unfolded while the kids and I sat on Georgetown's campus, unthinkable to the three of us who have spent time in Oslo. But madmen are everywhere.

And the carry-on about the debt ceiling debate: Congress and the President are nothing more than a group of boys and girls crapping in their playpens. I am infuriated by this nonsense, this gamesmanship. I've never been big on corporal punishment for children, but I find I want to give them all a sharp slap and an admonishment to damn well grow up now and do the job they were elected to do.

And that's the scary part of this last week. Touring campuses with dead-eyed children playing on their phones while avid parents ask about test scores. This is the rising generation. I know there have to be like-minded people out there somewhere. I see it in some of the college students who are giving the tours. We just have to find them.

Go listen to some good music: "You're No Good" from the album Heart Like a Wheel by Linda Ronstadt. This hotel has a singing toilet...

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