The Freshman Five: The First Chapter Of Adulthood

Photo Courtesy Of Sherri Ciancutti Portraits

So we’re visiting college campuses lately.  The final fledgling is getting ready for his solo flight from the mothership beginning fall 2015. It has all the same feel as before; mom is worried about him going it alone, grandma is reminding me about things I need to “cover” with him before he’s out on his own, brothers and sisters feel the need to tell me that he should commute to college and live at home because “he’s just too young for all this.” I’m taking a lot of deep breaths it seems.

I think he’s ready. The kid’s carrying a 3.3 – 3.6 accumulative point average steadily without a lot of “over the top” studying. His SAT’s were OK, not earth shattering but OK. He’s involved in rugby, weightlifting and all things to do with fitness. He’s an active member of the church youth group and he’s close to all of our family from the seniors to the nephews and nieces. In all, he’s just a good kid; well rounded, healthy attitude, good perspective. That “good” part may be the one worry I have, that he will get taken advantage of by being too nice. But that is a thing that must be learned as well and when fending for oneself, that is when those challenges are encountered and conquered.

So what’s waiting for him out there? The visits have been seasoned by the colorful quotes of the incumbents. Here are a few of the comments made by student “ambassadors” that took us on the various campus tours. Some of them made me smile, some of them made me sigh but all of them reminded me this is not your “father’s Oldsmobile” or your “father’s college experience.”

  • “This is our coolest building because it’s a dorm on top with classrooms below so you can come to class in your pajamas which is like so nice in the winter.”

  • “This is the awesome cafeteria and one of the most awesome things is that the people that serve you are awesome and if you like want a smoothie or some other awesome things they will make it for you. Isn’t that awesome?”

  • “You guys have to remember this is a small school so if you like want to cut a class or something, good luck because everyone knows who you are and they know if you are missing.”

  • “Me, personally, I am in finance but I like hate numbers so I am hoping to be more of a communicator in the finance world and bring the message to the people about finance.”  (My wife asked the inevitable question from the back of the crowd, “What IS the finance message?” which got back nothing but a perplexed look from the originator of that mind-blowing utterance).

And hey I don’t mean to be mocking the students, they are all well-intended and volunteering their time to “sell” the school but their naiveté reminded me just how young and inexperienced they all are at this point. Made me laugh in retrospect when I was sure the people I worked under when I first got out of college were blind to my amazing skill sets as they simply were not promoting me to CEO at the age of 22.  Didn’t they know how brilliant I was?

Evidently they did.

The tours are hilarious, really. There is always a mom or a dad who wants the whole crowd that is collectively shuffling from landmark to landmark, to know that things have certainly changed since they were in school. DID EVERYONE HEAR THAT? I USED TO GO TO SCHOOL, TOO! When they hear about the card that is scanned for the dorm entrance as well as the cafeteria meal plans they crow about how they used to use books of meal tickets and how they used to play poker with those tickets so they could put food on the table during the tough and challenging 1980s. Or when the hostess/ambassadors run down the list of activities available at the school this person always asks the one off-the-chart question like, “Is there a formal backgammon club because we used to play that all the time.” The poor bewildered ambassador is reduced to saying, “Well I could look into that for you.” To which the pampas parent tightens his lip and says (while smiling, exhaling and shaking his head condescendingly), “No, no--that's alright.”

So after all the tours are done and the boy finally sits down to decide what he wants to do I am reflective too. I remember being 18 and being asked what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Heck, I didn’t know. Sam claims to know what he wants at the moment but I have watched that change for the last three years. He wanted to be a chef, and ad executive, a videographer, a rugby professional and now an athletic personal trainer. Fact is he’ll consume a few semesters with prerequisites anyway and this will give him greater ability to focus and find his niche. He’ll need that time and maybe even more but at some point about midway through this journey it will be his duty to pick a direction and start heading that way. As a father I need to expect that of him so he doesn’t float around forever in the “not sure” malaise that seems to be so much a part of what being in “your 20’s” is all about any more. Sure he should pursue his passions but life is about choices and putting them off until everything is completely solid-sure is a weak way to live and can become quite the convenient excuse (sorry, Mrs. Pelosi).  When we were talking about this the other night I explained to him the theories about shooting for 100 percent but settling for 80/20. “Miss the target hit the tree,” I said. That to me is the WD-40 of life. We’ll see what he takes away from that. Indeed, he is already pretty much his own man.

I had a professor in my senior year who gave a little speech in the last class of our last semester. To paraphrase he suggested taking the next 20 post-college years and breaking them into four 5-year sets. In the first five years be like a freshman; change your major a lot, don’t be too serious, look around and gather fruit. In your next five years be like a sophomore; start to align your wants and needs and aim towards what you have designated as most important. In your junior five years you begin to become that person.  You take leadership roles in your field and do things that will further your career by joining associations, taking on challenges and formulating the foundation of your ascendance in a company, field or career. Now you are 15 years into the work world. You have some experience, you have earned a reputation. You are relied upon, steadfast and people above you want you on their team. Seize those opportunities and become the leader, become the reliable, realize your dreams and then spend the next 15 years exemplifying all that it took to get you there. If you do it right you’ll feel like you “arrived” at a destination you have always been looking for. And then suddenly 30 or 40 years later it is time to retire and look back on a life well spent, a life of fulfillment.  Now, wouldn’t that be nice?

Ron Ciancutti has worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He holds a BS in Business from Bowling Green State University and an MBA from Baldwin Wallace University and has held his current position as Director of Procurement since 1990.