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Boomer Grandpa: A new beginning, a crossroads, a transformation

August 30, 2018

Do you remember heading back to school? It was the beginning of cooler evenings and colder mornings. It was a unique feeling that I can’t describe, but I remember that September brought a certain emotion.

I loved my small town high school, and college was a remarkable time in my life. Getting back to friends, activities and yes, even classes, are good memories.

Kids in Rochester and throughout our area have headed back to school. Young adults have headed to college, some for the first time. For students, parents and teachers, I doubt that the emotions have changed much. There is excitement and there are tears.

Boomers can identify either as a student of 50 some years ago, as a parent and now as a grandparent. We now witness these emotions from the sidelines.

I thought I would check in with a couple of friends and a family member and see what they remember about going off to college.

The book is in your court

Fellow boomer Craig reflected that he was raised to be pretty self-reliant. This made his transition to college fairly easy.

He was too busy to feel overwhelmed as he hit the campus running; working fulltime and carrying a full load of credits. Craig remembered that in college it’s totally up to you to get your coursework done, or even to show up for class. If you didn’t get the work done, you got a lousy grade. It really did prepare you for life.

Both Craig and I remember that the state of society had issues back then, too. Each fall events going on in our country included the sadness and fallout from assassinations, the Vietnam War, civil rights, the resignation of a president, equality for women, burning of draft cards, protests and conscientious objectors.

Craig enjoyed the learning, the exposure to different perspectives and meeting new and diverse people. He liked the increased self-reliance and independence.

Craig got engaged as a freshman in college and was married a couple of years later. He and his wife, Dawn, have three kids and now are watching as all seven grandkids are heading back to school.

There is indeed some emotion as they watch their grandkids head to grad school, college, high school, middle and elementary school. That’s a lot of back-to-school shopping.

There is value in knowledge

I decided to venture into a professor’s world. My niece, Dr. Felicia Else, professor of art history and chairwoman of the Department of Art and Art History at Gettysburg College said that as a student she loved heading back to school.

Her field of study was her passion — art, history, languages and culture. Now as a professor, back to school means her summer recharge is over, although during this time she does research and class preparation.

Dr. Else said that once she gets back into that classroom, she loves it. Every fall she loves the opportunity to teach and mentor new and returning students.

If she was to give a message for making the best of each “back to school” year, it is to be open-minded, organized and, most importantly, to pursue what you love, even if it seems unpractical or “nerdy.”

My niece, whom I am extremely proud of, said there is value in all branches of knowledge and experience, and you need to learn about the world around you to help learn about who you are.

Heading to college in 2018

Let’s move to the here and now. A young man who attends my church has headed to college for his freshman year. Matthew is smart, talented and kind, and I have no doubt he will be successful in his life.

Matthew headed to North Dakota State University a week earlier than most students to attend band camp. Matthew said he wasn’t sure what to think or do right away after his parents dropped him off and departed. It’s a unique emotion.

Even if we feel we are ready, it’s still a moment that will stand out in our life. It’s an early crossroads, where we separate from parents and head out on the path that we choose.

Matthew said each day he gained confidence and quickly made friends. As an advanced placement student in high school, Matthew can immediately jump into tougher courses in college.

He was glad to get underway in his coursework. His current plan is a major in computer science and he is considering a minor or additional major in music. He is off and running.

This back-to-school thing has always been part of our life. It’s an emotion that transforms. We are a kid, a student, a parent, a teacher and a grandparent. It’s a feeling I just can’t describe.

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