Nick says it’s sleep deprivation talking, I’m not so sure. After thinking we’d all gotten through Emilia’s junior year with our sanity intact, she tells us she doesn’t know why she’s going to college and therefore should take a year off, or maybe not go until she knows why. No reason to panic, right? Lot’s of kids take a gap year. Except this sudden about face isn’t Emilia, although her moodiness of late makes me think about the kid in The Exorcist. I don’t know how Nick stayed calm listening to Emilia’s announcement. Especially when she started talking about her education as nothing more than learning to clear one hurdle after another and preparing to live in a bubble. God, I wish I hadn’t lost it then. Telling Em that her father and I were sorry for making it possible for her attend one of the best private schools in NYC and making it possible for her to finish college without incurring a mountain of debt just set her off. This college admissions process is driving me crazy. All I ever wanted from the time she and her sister were born was for them to be happy. But with the way things are out there, everybody competing for everything, doesn’t Em have a better shot at happiness if she graduates from the best school she can get into? Maybe on some remote tropical island happiness has nothing to do with success, but on the island of Manhattan the two are bound at the hip.
Or are they? Is there a difference between success and fulfillment? Is fulfillment what we mean when we talk about happiness? And if that’s the case, is fulfillment or happiness dependent on success? These are complex questions made even more so when posed by a young person coming of age during a period of significant cultural change. A parent is left wondering what values or principles she can impart that will help her child judge what matters when disruptive innovation is considered a virtue. These questions are explored in Letters of Recommendation.
Online booksellers carry Letters — Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Tower Books — and your favorite bookstore can order it for you — Letters of Recommendation by Maxine McClintock is published in The Reflective Commons (New York: Collaboratory for Liberal Learning, 2013). ISBN 978-1-937828-004, $24.95.