Friday, September 08, 2006

Beginnings of an empty nest...

There is an ad (I think it's for Toyota) that shows a college kid being dropped off in front of his collegiate dorm, a banner across the entry stating "Welcome Freshmen". The kid is standing a bit bewildered with his stuff and junk spread at his feet on the lawn in front of the building. And the caption reads:


5:17 P.M. WHAT KID?

We just went through this experience this week with our eldest daughter. She has spread her wings and left the nest and is off to college out of state! I've kidded with my wife about this ad, asking her "What kid?". Over the weekend, we immediately cleaned her room, boxed up her stuff and moved our youngest into her room. The youngest has been sleeping at the top of the stairs in a loft - but now she's out of a crib and into a real bed in a real bedroom. Again I ask, "What kid?"

(So that you don't think that we're that heartless, we're redoing a guest room that will be our college kid's room when she comes back from school).

I've had my parents, friends, neighbors all ask how it feels to "lose" a daughter, anticipating some kind of "oh, it's so sad... we miss her so much" kind of remark. But, to be honest with you, I don't miss her at all. I'm not sad! I'm excited as can be for her! This is the best and most thrilling time of her life to experience new and amazing things away from the shadow of her parents! This is the time for her to find herself, and discover her strengths and interests and learn to grow and become the beautiful young woman that we know she is! How can that be sad?

She actually called my wife the first day and there were tears in her voice and she was not very excited, pretty nervous and overwhelmed by it all - the new environment, new roommates, etc. But the second day went better and she was more content and settled in her voice when she called. The third day we didn't hear from her at all! Good sign!

I guess I look back at my freshman year and leaving home for the first time and I remember loving every minute of it and never looking back. In fact, since that move to college, I never lived at home again (except for a few days here and there). College was a wonderful time! I loved getting away from home and never was homesick. I loved the challenges of BYU and learning new things and doing well and proving to myself that I could do well. I loved BYU and the Hinckley Hall boys in Helaman Halls. I loved new friends who didn't know me as the shy kid in high school. I was a new persona, a person with a clean slate and I loved starting anew!

I also remember starting my interest in earnest in other young men that freshman year. Though I was too naive to recognize that I was gay (I couldn't be... it wasn't even possible or even part of the plan for my life - I was an active straight Mormon boy who had a strong testimony and was on the path for my mission at the end of that first school year and nothing was going to get in my way of that goal!) I remember loving the "gang showers" in the dorms, and especially in the Smith Fieldhouse locker room at my "Fitness for Life" class where I experimented in exhibitionism of sorts. I remember parading around with no towel on and quite hard and noticing a fellow student watch me go into the shower. He was drying off and kept staring at me as I pranced by. He was still there slowly drying off when I came out. It was a bit exciting and yet a bit unnerving that he was openly staring at me. I remember this right now as if it happened yesterday. I smiled but tried not to make eye contact. Little did I realize what a horny little slut I was - when in reality I was crying out for male attention, male affection, male bonding, male recognition, and self-discovery.

But it was mostly subconscious and I was successful in suppressing it into the back corners of my subconscious mind... And that's where it stayed locked up and hidden for many years.

Had I been anywhere but BYU, had I not been a pre-mission candidate, had I not been raised with cultural and moral limits on my curiosity as I was as a Mormon boy, I wonder if I would have acted on those desires of male-contact during that period of self-discovery? I wonder had I not listened to the Spirit would I have ventured off on a different path? I wonder how my life would have been different now, had I realized that I was gay back then instead of two decades later. I wonder...

Yes, Freshman years are full of discoveries. I hope and pray that my daughter will seek to find out who she REALLY is in this coming year. I hope and pray that she will find joy in discovering the incredible person she is becoming.

Happy Fall!


Moncrief Speaks said...

Very well written as always.

To "answer" your rhetorical question: likely you would have. I was raised without active organzied religion (apart from a few rote Sundays going to Catholic church with my grandmother here and there), and went to a liberal-arts college, progressive politically, and it was in college that I came out (without much flourish) and explored my affectational attractions for the first time.

So, yes, I expect things would have been different if you had been someone else.

Not sure if that's the answer you want to hear or not.

Kim Mack said...

Your story about your daughter leaving and you not being sad reminds me of when my first child neared the walking stage. I could see it was just around the corner and I was so excited for him. People would say to me, "Are you kidding? He might fall, he will get into more things, he'll be harder to manage ..." And I still thought, "yeah, isn't that amazing?!"

I'll miss my kids, though, when they leave my nest. I'm not *that* liberal yet! :)

-L- said...

The most distinct memory I have of being dropped off the first day of college is seeing a hot shirtless guy jogging by my dorm and thinking, "Wow, this isn't going to be easy even though it's BYU."