Advice for those leaving for college, as well as the rest of us

I had an interesting conversation this week.

A young friend of mine, who worked for Danah and I, has been anxiously awaiting leaving for college all summer. And on Tuesday, I texted her to check in and she told me that she was “freaking out and packing too much.”

And hearing what she had to say, and what she’s been saying all summer, brought me back to when I graduated High School and was moving on to the next part of my journey.

I remember I was just like my young friend. I was so excited and so nervous and just couldn’t wait for it to “get here.”

I remember the two days and nights before I left for Boot Camp, and they seemed to last for ages. I had family and friends who wanted to see me, but I was distracted and hardly cared. I wanted nothing to do with my hometown of Knoxville. I was ready to take that next big step. To take the plunge and become an adult.

And as I talked with this young lady, who was also moving out of the state, I told her that she should just live it. Breathe it. Experience it and try to inhale it and embrace it all as much as she could. (After all, you only pack up to move out on your own for the first time just once in your life.)

I know I didn’t live it or breathe it. I was in a hurry, and it started before I turned 17. It really started for me at about 15. I can remember wanting my Driver’s License so bad! And then to be a Senior in High School! And then to graduate! And then I wanted to get to Boot Camp! To get through my School of Infantry training!

I could go on, but you get the point. My other high marks were to get out of the Corps, to get through the wedding (so we could get to our long-planned trip), to get into (and graduated from) college, and to land the job I had trained for so hard.

All of these steps were like mile markers that I rushed and sprinted toward as hard as I could, and as my older readers know, once you get through them, you realize that, well, there’s nothing “there” that wasn’t where you were.

There is no grand party. No cool club. Barely any additional recognition that you thought would land in your lap.

Even worse, often the “there” isn’t what you thought it would be and you find yourself wishing you could just go back.

I know you guys have experienced this, and it’s a depressing thing to have to learn. Unfortunately, the lesson — once learned– proves to be just one step of your education, as well. While it’s an important lesson, it’s not the final one because after you learn to stop rushing through life, you then have to learn to stop looking back — and that’s a challenge that for many of us could last a lifetime.

But I think the lesson that applies to you when you’re young is the same lesson that applies to you as you age. You can’t spend all your time looking back.

You need to live and breathe whatever you’re doing, where-ever you are. Because one thing’s for sure: You’ll only get this moment once, and you’ll certainly wish you had it back someday.

One final thought before I close, I suggested to my young friend that she should buy a journal and write down her thoughts and hopes and fears. I would nearly kill to have a journal from back then. How I talked. What I believed. How optimistic I was. How much I worried about the (in hindsight) silliest of things.

And with that, I’d like to say that Danah and I started journal-ling EVERY day as part of our New Year’s resolution. We’re using a five-year journal called One Line a Day.Β  The super cool part of this journal is two fold: A) You get only a few lines, so it’s not intimidating and easier to just scribble something down even when you’re tired and don’t wan to. And, B) Next year, I’ll be able to see precisely what I was thinking or doing one year ago.

Already, I find myself flipping back to a few months ago and it just kills me that I haven’t been doing this line-a-day journal my entire life. I actually did journal some before this — I started after my divorce, but it wasn’t regular; more like every other week or so, and thus I believe the daily One Line a Day concept is far superior.

So, give serious toward picking up one of Line a Day Journals and think about how valuable it would be to read it years and years from now… And remember, no matter how old or young you are, just live it, breathe it, and experience it all as much as you can. Even if you’re headed into Assisted Living. One day, you may wish you could sit in a wheel chair again, so try not to look back, but enjoy each visit, each meal, each prayer.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

P.S. This book has absolutely changed my life. You should seriously consider buying it. It’s about $20, but is worth about $10,000, in my opinion.

26 thoughts on “Advice for those leaving for college, as well as the rest of us

    1. Hah! Yeah, you’re probably right. But ya know, as I think about it, ants rush through life, too. The difference is we have bigger brains and should be smart enough to change before it’s too late! : )

      BTW, thanks a million, Tim, for re-blogging this and for your incredibly kind words. I can’t tell you how much I value your friendship and I hope to share a cup of coffee with you some day and meet you in real life.


  1. I’m so glad Tim reblogged this so I could catch your piece!

    This is an incredible post, one that speaks to me dearly, as I’m sure it does to many. I’m just past the 30 milestone and these are lessons I am coming to terms with already. Breathe it all in…absolutely.


    1. Thanks, rarasaur! You seem cool as shit so I followed you as fast as I could. (Love the drawings and my wife thinks you seem super cool — you two are quite a bit alike, at least with what you’ve shared that I’ve seen at a glance!)


      1. Yay! I love meeting up with like-minded folk. That’s what makes blogging so much fun. I carved out some time to zip around your blog and read Momma Knows Best, too. πŸ™‚


        1. Holy crap, rarasaur!!! You did browse around a lot and like a lot of pages, and my goodness?! You read my short story, too?! Wow! I’m beyond flattered and impressed! Thanks so much and I look forward to getting to know you, as well!


  2. Reblogged this on a physical perspective and commented:
    Check out this incredible post from Stan Mitchell, which I meandered over to via good pal Tim Dittmer. The importance of breathing life in is crucial to our enjoyment of its awe-inspiring beauty. The more we rush, the less we absorb. Every day, every damn moment deserves our full attention. So, inhale and hang onto it, lovies. It’s a keeper.


  3. Fantastic piece Stan and thanks for recommending the one line a day journal. That’s a really great idea, and like you, I wish I’d started doing that a long time ago. But there’s no time to start like the present. Hope you’re doing well.


    1. Make sure you buy it, Phillip! And I owe you a comment. I read your blog post earlier and I meant to drop a line and say a few things and then got super busy with work. I’ve saved the link and will comment soon!


  4. First of all, I have the very same 5-year journal and LOVE it! I’m in year 2. It’s so much fun to read what my answers were last year. I got one for my son and daughter-in-law, too.

    Secondly, I can relate to what you’re saying. I think about it often. I feel like I rushed through my son’s childhood. I was always trying to “get through” something — the day, the holidays, the week, the school year. Get through my job, get through the Boy Scout obligations, get through –everything. Now I feel like I was in such a rush that I missed it all.

    I had my daughter 11 years later and am much older, calmer and relaxed about life. I wish I’d been that way earlier. I can never get my son’s childhood days back.


    1. Browsing the Atlas,

      Oh, cool! Someone else out there using the same journal!!! I can’t wait until it’s five years from now and I’m reading my older entries!

      And I don’t have any kids, but I have friends who I often hear say the same thing. From ball season to even some hard classes at their kid’s school, I hear them same that quite a bit. Which, speaking of that, you know I’m not sure how this stuff would work with someone younger. (I have tried it with an 18-year-old and we did a five minute exercise that she said was pretty effective.) But I do wonder what would happen if you told a kid who was rushing through life the above information… (And not from their Mom or Dad, but from someone they look up to and would actually listen to with an open mind!)

      And regarding your regrets about it and not getting it back, just remember what I said above. We need to work to not look back, just as we need to work to not look forward! So, instead of feeling bad, go do something with your son that he desperately wants to do (and that you don’t really want to do) and just enjoy the day or afternoon or night as if it’s the last one you have with him! : )

      Thanks so much for the comment, Browsing the Atlas! And enjoy all of your journies! (Yep, I spent some time on your blog! You seem supercool!)


    1. Thanks, Mike.

      And you know, Mike, just answering honestly and not trying to deflect the comment like I always do, I will say that I’ve been told that before. And the answer — assuming it’s true — is a two-part-er. First, I really have done a lot for someone my age, and that stems from my ambition, which is mountainous as you know. (And dangerous. Very dangerous.)

      But the experience angle is maybe only 30 percent of it. The real wisdom comes from books, and I just want to grab people by the shoulder and shake them sometimes. The truth is obvious: There are oceans of information out there. So, I didn’t just read the Bible, I read a couple dozen books about it from people who are authorities and believe it, as well as many who don’t.

      I’ve studied religions such as Buddhism and Islam because I wanted to understand what they believed, not just listen to some stupid newscaster who reads a 30-second blurb (that they didn’t even write) about what those religions believe.

      I don’t know. I’ve always had a questioning mind, and an insatiable appetite for knowledge. It’s part of why I become a journalist. And (hopefully), it’s one of my gifts.


  5. Enjoyed all the articles and comments!! Always take time to smell the roses! Great job to you all!!


  6. Tim’s blog sent me here and how delighted that it did! Your words are so spot on: that rush to get “there” and then that ever looking “back”. What funny creatures we are. Stop, breathe, take the moment in – at any and every age, yes!


    1. So, true, danniehill! Unfortunately. But I can’t say unfortunately because I must not weep over the time lost or the speed of its passing. Rather, I must relish it, for as long as I can.

      Thanks for the comment! And a big hoo-rah to you for moving out of the South and enjoying a slower lifestyle!!!


  7. Living in the moment is always a good theory…just harder in practice. But like hitting a nail on the head every time, you should practice it before you need it to build that bird feeder or house.


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