Climbing the hill
A Georgia mom adjusts to her daughter's first year at UGA
My daughter punched in my cell phone number as she was walking across the bridge on the University of Georgia campus.
“Isn’t there a shortcut around here to the dining hall?” she asks.
I rewind my mind more than three decades and try to recall exactly where the stairs are that lead to the physics building. I’m talking while she is walking.
She finds the shortcut and makes it to the top of hill. I’m amazed that she’s not out of breath. “I am,” she huffs.
My little homebody is the first one to leave the nest. She has been in Athens for exactly two weeks and is finding her way around UGA and the next phase of her life. Those she left behind at home also are attempting to get by without her—our talker, our worrier and our fixer—the one with the bright smile and sunny attitude.
“Everything will be alright,” I say, but she’s not so sure. I’m not convinced either, but I must be cheery and positive, which can be difficult. When an angry letter arrives in the mail from someone I wrote about, I read the stinging words and burst into tears. Suddenly I feel that what I do just isn’t good enough. The phone rings again, and I find out that my younger daughter ran three miles during cross country practice and became overheated. She’s fine but she wants Mom.
Two of my cats hiss at each other, and I can’t remember how to operate the television’s new remote control. It’s one of those days.
Older daughter calls again and the tables are turned. I tell her about the letter, her sister and the remote, and she tries to make it OK for me.
I’m down and, metaphorically speaking, she’s trying to walk me up the hill.
For the last two weeks I’ve been on the phone talking or texting her with advice on how to survive the time away from home. That’s right, she insists. Athens is not her home. Her apartment is just an apartment, but a darn nice one, at that, if I may be so bold.
When she asks for advice, I tell her to keep busy and suggest that she turn to a slender red volume that was included in her UGA orientation packet. Called “If I Only Knew Then...,” it’s advice for the college years from members of the UGA Alumni Association.
A handful of Savannahians, including Mark Murphy, submitted words of wisdom for the newest Georgia bulldogs. Here’s what he had to say:
“(UGA) is an amazing place, and your college years will be an amazing time in your life. Don’t take the experience for granted. Take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have all of the rights of adulthood with virtually none of the responsibilities. What an incredible luxury it is to be asked to learn about the world, about yourself and about life! Many people spend the rest of their lives trying to recapture the magic of their college years.
“So, grow your brain in and out of the classroom. Seek out friends who will help you develop in a positive way, intellectually and otherwise. Do not underestimate the importance of developing a sense of character; indeed, learn to be the sort of person that others respect for the strength and quality of their value system. Learn to be risk-averse without being paralyzed by risk-aversion; the high-wire act of learning what risks are acceptable and what risks are not is one of the most important things you can learn as a young adult.
“And, finally, learn to appreciate the finer aspects of Georgia football. Believe it or not, it can teach you a great deal about camaraderie, the idea of valuing the team over the individual and the pervasive concept that hard work and perseverance can lead to success. College football is a microcosm of life itself. When viewed in that light, even the non-athletically inclined can learn to appreciate its intrinsic beauty.”
A text from Athens just came through. “I just saw Knowshon Moreno!” it reads, referring to one of UGA’s gridiron greats.
It’s a rugged climb up that hill called life, but somehow I think she’s headed in the right direction.