We're shopping and packing. We're having celebratory dinners together at all our favorite restaurants. The kid leaves to go off to college next Saturday and I'm already getting a bit mopey and feeling useless. I've been hanging out with the kid since his forever and I'm actually going to miss getting up at 6:30 to drive him to cross country practice and driving halfway across Texas just to see him run for 18 minutes. His crew of friends are all peeling off this week to go on their own college adventures. His friends of thirteen or fourteen years are all bright and motivated. They are dispersing to good schools all over the country. Some are taking a semester off to sail out in the Pacific. A few are going to school here in Texas at A&M and UT. Few are going as far away as Ben. His school is 1850 miles from Austin in the northern reaches of New York state.
The whole idea of his leaving is really starting to sink in as we toss last minute stuff in the laundry and I teach him for the 100th time how to tie a necktie. The transition is effecting everything. I skipped swim practice so I could have breakfast with him at least one more time. I've lost my motivation to go to work, write a blog or head out for social functions because I want to hold on to every minute. It's almost pathetic. He's ready to go, his mom is stoically spearheading the "pre-production" and I'm hovering like a lost art director, trying to figure out how to reverse time or at least slow it down since there are so many things I still feel as though I need to teach him.
But friends of the family who have known both of us for as long as Ben's been alive are quick to assure me that the boy is much brighter than I've ever been and as worldly and knowledgeable as they come. He understands already that compound interest is your best friend and/or your worst enemy. He know that the measure of a person is not how well that person treats you but how well he treats the "help." He flosses his teeth. He writes "thank you" notes without parental prodding. He truly understands calculus, statistics and, at least, the rudiments of physics. He's already made an award winning video and he's already earned money for being smart.
He has done things at 18 that I didn't get around to until my mid thirties. Opened a brokerage account, made good equities investments, turned down bad jobs, learned to drink black coffee, tasted vintage champagnes and developed a taste for various bleu cheeses. Given me business advice that worked out well. Bounced around plot ideas for my next book with me. Reined in my tendency to go off into something without all the needed information, and so much more.
I've been spending my time buying him warm, winter clothes. Gloves, boots, hats, sweatshirts, jackets, vests, parkas, ski jackets and even long underwear. He'll be able to pack and carry onto an airline only a tiny fraction of this giant, new (and to him, alien) wardrobe and the rest I'll have to ship to him. I've actually gone so far as to call the college to make sure they have adequate heating for the class rooms and dorms.
I keep telling myself that when he is safely ensconced in his scholarly enclave I'll regain my recently wavering motivation and hit the business and writing with renewed vigor. I guess we'll see. But if the blog seems a little spotty or "off" for the next week I can pretty much assure you that it's a reflection of my state of mind. I'm sure it will all straighten itself out. I'll rediscover an "amazing" lens or camera system and we'll be off and running.
Funny that the week prior to Ben's departure I'm busier with jobs that I've been for most of the Summer. But I don't regret the work because it keeps me busy and alleviates the constant hovering that I seem to be doing when I am momentarily directionless. It also bolsters the checking account which, I am certain, has just taken the first of many painful beatings. Ah, the life of the freelance artist...But seriously,
I know that nothing will ever be the same again.
On another note I came to realize that Ben has observed my progress and immersion in photography for quite a while so I took the opportunity at a recent lunch to ask him where he thought everything was going and what was next for the world of photography. He deflected my question a few times and then he pulled his iPhone out of his pocket and put it on the table. He glanced at it, pointed and remained quiet.
I'd been pressing him to come into the studio and select a camera to take to college. I've opened up the cabinet doors and asked, "film? Digital? Leica? Olympus?" The final answer was the iPhone. He's seen the trajectory of photography and it doesn't interest him (or any of his circle of friends) at all. It's not his "cup of tea." That makes me feel conflicted. On one hand I trust his instincts 100%. If he isn't into photography nothing I can say at this point will change his mind. On the other hand I can't help wondering if, in this respect, I've been a poor role model and have only shown him the mechanical and business side of photography but have forgotten how to transmit the joy of it.
I didn't buy my first camera until my junior year in college. Only time will tell.
One week until the giant adventure begins.
To all of you who've successfully launched your children and are reading this blog post as though it is in the rear view mirror: congratulations. To all of you who have this journey in front of you: Good Luck!