The Letter your High School Senior Can't Write You.

Dear Parent-

Stop talking about next year. I mean it. Stop it. I can’t deal with it right now. You ask me about my applications, my essays, my recommendations, and ‘have you talked to your guidance counselor?’ You see this as my job and all I can see is loss.  I can’t stand your excitement because it isn’t how I feel about it. Can you please stop talking about it?

I know. I know. I know all of the things I have to do, but it's hard enough doing what I need to do for tomorrow, let alone next year. I am swamped with everything I have to do right now –how do you expect me to do all of this work for next year at the same time? And I know. This is what I have been working for. And this is what I do want. And I know it’s hard for you. And it’s a big sacrifice for you and it’s what I have asked for. But not right now. I want it and I don’t want it.

Every time you talk about next year my stomach drops. I feel empty. I know I act like I can’t stand you sometimes but when you talk about next year all I can feel is fear and panic. I can’t imagine myself living anywhere else—when I try, it is as if I have just disappeared. It’s like I don’t exist. I feel desperate. When you talk about next year what you are really talking about is me moving out, being gone. Leaving you and everyone here. Leaving my friends.

I am afraid of having to leave and I am afraid that I won’t be able to. What if they don’t like me? What if no one wants me? I want to stay and I want to be chosen. I want both. I want to be wanted. Somewhere. Right now, you are pushing me to go and no one has taken me in. I am nowhere. Absolutely nowhere.

How did you do it? How did everyone else do it? Leave? Leave everything behind? It looks impossible. It hurts. All I want to do is cry and ask you to stop. Beg you not to forget me. I want the impossible: I want to stop time so everything stays the same. I just want to stay here.

And all at the same time, I don’t. I can feel myself excited for next year. How can you want both? To go and to stay?  It makes me feel crazy. But I do. There are times when I am excited about next year. I’ll get to meet new people. I will get to do new things. I can see myself in my new world. I can feel a bit of the confidence I have. And the clearer the picture is, it can suddenly switch: I see myself doing well, feeling excited and then in a flash it switches to loss. I will lose you. I will lose all of this. And I want to crawl under my covers. I want to stop everything. Most of all I want to stop you from talking about next year. Because when you do, it feels too real.

I know you can’t. And I know I can’t. It feels like this kind of loss is not survivable. I know other people have done it. But I can’t imagine how.  I am not sure that I understood as much as I do now that there is loss in moving forward. In getting what you want. I know you can’t stop asking me about next year. And I don’t really want you to. I need your help. I need your nagging. I need your editing. And what I really need is your reassurance. I can’t do this by myself because I want both things: to stay and to go, which makes me kind of freeze up and go no where. I need your help and I need you to hear my frustration in this conversation as a backwards compliment: as much as I am excited to go, I want to stay. This is my way of surviving good-bye. 

Love, Your High School Senior

© 2015 Gretchen L. Schmelzer, PhD