By Shelley Murphy
It’s that time of year—again. With spring break’s festivities finished, college seniors start counting down the days until their greatest celebration yet—graduation.
When my boys were born, I imagined their futures and hoped they’d one day be college graduates. I just didn’t anticipate that day arriving so quickly.
I remember as a mom of toddlers sometimes thinking the days seemed so long and then as a mom of teens the nights seemed even longer, but somehow the years always seemed short.
It feels like yesterday we were moving our oldest son into his freshman dorm and waving a tearful goodbye. Then I blinked and four years flew by.
As my oldest son graduates from supported student to autonomous adult, in a weird way I feel as though I’m graduating, too. Obviously, my son will be the one in the cap and gown next month; and as he crosses the stage to accept his diploma, I’ll be sitting silently in my seat, as requested.
My son’s grownup responsibilities and calendar will soon determine our time together and I’ll no longer be the mom calling the shots. My son’s graduation frees him from the confines of a classroom, yet I’m about to be schooled.
Soon-to-be college graduates preparing to trade tuition and textbook payments for 401ks and income taxes feel enormous pressure to have their futures planned. Their stress is fueled by enduring months of the constant question they dread: “What are your plans after college?” And, as commencement looms, countless students find themselves still searching for the answer.
Plans or not, graduating college seniors face good and bad news. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, this year employers expect to hire 5.2 percent more graduates than they hired last year.
The job market may be up but so are housing costs. Current seniors hoping to call the San Francisco Bay Area home might find jobs spurred by Silicon Valley, but they’ll pay approximately $3,500 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in the city—and Siri can’t provide assistance.
U.S. Census data shows approximately 45 percent of recent college graduates return to the nest. It’s a statistic that came into play at this month’s Masters Tournament. My husband watches the golf competitions every year and he called my attention to an interview with professional golfer, 24-year-old Smylie Kaufman.
The Masters rookie resided in relative obscurity until he shot up the leader board in the final days of the tournament and scored an interview with sportscaster Jim Nantz. Questioned by Nantz, Kaufman reluctantly acknowledged, on national television, that he still lives at home with his parents.
The interview lifted my spirits and hopes. In turn, I called my older son and told him about the pro golfer who earned almost $2 million dollars on the PGA Tour yet chooses to live at home with his parents.
After a short silence, I heard my son say, “Uh, yeah, that’s not gonna happen.” My son’s right; I might be in denial. He’s accepted a job.
Upon my son’s graduation he becomes gainfully employed. Even better, his new employer wants him to start two days after he graduates—in a city located in the middle of the country with no direct flights.
I’ve shared my son’s good news with friends who congratulate me on his accomplishment, and my closest girlfriends offer their condolences.
In three weeks my son dons his cap and gown. At commencement he’ll sit among friends, many of whom also plan on relocating to cities across the country to find their place in the world.
My son can’t wait to graduate from college and get going on life’s awaiting adventures. Me, I’m reluctantly graduating from parenting to the parent of an adult and facing the ensuing uncertainty.
The only thing I know with certainty is when my son leaves his college campus behind, we’ll both learn that some of our greatest lessons lie ahead.
Shelley Murphy has lived in San Clemente with her husband for the past 17 years, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the SC Times since 2006.