A few days ago, my 21 year old niece announced she was dropping out of college. This post is about why I am not disappointed with her.
My family is not very prolific. Wednesday is my older brother's daughter and my only niece. She is the light of our lives. Tall and beautiful, and very smart, she seemed to have ambitions far beyond that of her parents, neither of whom were interested in higher education. The older she gets, the more she reminds me of myself at that age. She has a mind of her own and once she sets her mind to doing something, she never, ever quits. And like me, she has higher expectations for herself than others have for her. When she decided she was going to be a doctor and had been accepted to a prestigious university for her undergraduate work, we were all going around high-fiving each other, even though none of us deserved the credit.
So it was quite a surprise that the week she finished her junior year she announced that she was not going back in the Fall.
So what happened? Frankly, she was miserable at her large school. But more importantly, she knew after three years in premed that she was never going to be happy in medicine. After three years with her head in the books, she didn't have any idea what she was going to do next.
My husband, who isn't related to her but has known her since she was in diapers, was the maddest of them all. Her mom and dad, my brother and sister-in-law, were just happy to have her home. My parents, who were footing the bill for her education, were mixed. I didn't know what to think, so I picked up the phone and called her.
All I had to do was hear the sound of her voice to know that she is going to be fine. She wasn't defensive, and she didn't even sound indecisive. She just said that she knew what she didn't want, and was going to take some time to figure out what she did want. Her plan is to live with her folks for a while, take a few courses over the Summer at the community college, and maybe spend some time abroad over the next year.
I told her I was proud of her and to let me know if she needs anything.
Oh, I know what you're thinking...the title of my post. This isn't the time I was very, very wrong. That one happened back in the Dark Ages, when I was a freshman in high school and had a friend who made what I thought at the time was a bad decision.
Scotty was so cute. He was a few years older than me, so of course I had a little bit of a crush on him, even though he was about as geeky as they come. He was going to be an architect, but he was a really talented musician. I'm no expert myself, but I've played the piano my whole life and I could never do what he could, just sit down and pick out a tune and make up words as you go along. Scotty could do that. He wrote a lot of songs, but he didn't really write them, he just made them up all the time. I could watch him play all day long.
But I also thought I was terribly mature in my knowledge that real grown-ups didn't become professional musicians, they become doctors and lawyers and architects who come home and play the piano for fun at the end of the day. And when Scotty announced, a year into college, that he was dropping out of the architecture program and changing his major to music, I told him so.
Fortunately, he didn't listen to me. And of course since he was off at college and I was still in high school, we really didn't ever see each other after that.
So once again, let's do a huge fast-forward to last year, when he found me on Facebook. He's now the head of a music program at a university on the east coast, and he's traveled all over the place and done a ton of fun, interesting things with his music. But the very best thing was seeing all the pictures of him and his students, and the look of pure joy on his face. In all of these pictures, he looks like a guy who has lived his life grinning from ear to ear.
And yes, of course I told him that, and apologized for my bad advice and told him how happy I was that he didn't listen to me.
That's why I'm not worried about Wednesday. She's going to be happy, and in the end that's all that matters.