As my youngest son, Jacob, prepares to graduate from college this upcoming weekend, I think about the advice I will give him.

I know I will tell him we love him and we are proud of who he is and all he has accomplished.

And I want to encourage him to give himself permission to have fun,

to explore the world and

to find his own path. 

The College of William & Mary is a rigorously academic institution and there are scores of students set out on well-defined career paths. From the very first day we dropped him off at college, there were those seemingly well-adjusted kids who flitted across campus with nary a worry. They re-connected with old friends, decorated dorm rooms, adorned themselves with W&M t-shirts, and practically floated with joy over their new-found status as college students. Meanwhile, I could feel the anxiety waft off of my son like heat waves over asphalt. There was a sense for him, I believe, of not just feeling differently but of being different. And this was hard for me, because I feel this way, too.

And yet, he persevered. He was nominated as one of the top English majors in his class. He has read volumes and written countless pages. He has worked at the college library and made friends and sustained a long-term relationship with a wonderful young man. He has had his struggles . . . and a good measure of true joy and belonging.

I think this will be my advice to him, these wise words.

Sometimes not having any idea where we’re going works out better than we could possibly have imagined.
— Ann Patchett, writer