>>> The Rollercoaster of Drama
By staff writer Simonne Cullen

June 11, 2006

Dear 2006 Graduates,

You have a diploma. You’re so smart. So answer me this: Why is everyone congratulating you on leaving the greatest place you have ever known? Shouldn’t they be congratulating your parents? After all, a graduate’s greatest blessing will be temporarily living with them at home for the next several months, potentially for the next year, or possibly moving into the basement on a permanent basis.

The wise ones have said that life is not a cafeteria. You don’t get to choose your parents. Because let’s face it, if you did, everyone would have the same last name: Hilton. And while you can’t choose your parents, you can take mental notes of what you’ll do differently when you become a parent. First note on the list: don’t have any kids—ever. Instead, take all the money you saved and purchase: a yacht, a horse, a second home in Prague, a bong forged entirely of 24k gold. Whatever.

“Ever wonder why so many parents give new cars to their kids on graduation day? It’s so that they can pack up all their shit and drive it home themselves.”

Right after graduation, a lot of parents put pressure on their kids to find a good job and eventually move out. Some of my friends’ parents gave their children a three-month transitional phase before they threatened to change the locks. After eight months of sleeping in your old bedroom/dad’s new office/mom’s new workout room between a box of old records and a treadmill circa 1988, you just may wake up to find an eviction notice on your bedroom door. Your parents really do want you to be unbelievably successful, just not under their roof. They’d rather you move into a one-bedroom studio downtown with three of your buddies sleeping in shifts on the floor.

Plus, I don’t think that parents really appreciate your newfound sense of academic genius. Like telling your younger siblings that once they get accepted into college they can let their grades drop to a C- average and still be able to go there in the fall. And I’m sure parents don’t appreciate overhearing the conversation where you try to convince your little brother that, “Hey, it’s a drink-nudie fest every day with the exception of midterms and finals week. They have majors like Leisure Studies and Liberal Arts so don’t stress about your major until junior year. I’m pretty sure that the guy who invented MySpace dropped out and he’s like a bazillionare now and currently Dateline’s only source of current event information.”

After a year of living at home, I’m finally moving out. Not only am I moving out, I’m moving across the country. California bound. West Coast. Pacific Time Zonage! Going back to school. Both my parents had thought that the education phase of my life was over, and they’d never have to help me pack up all my shit into those space-saver bags and help me find decent furniture at the nearest Salvation Army store.

And while Lawrence University was only four hours from home, California is a little further. If you don’t know the geography, it’s Chicago, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Ontario, Columbia, Argentina, Chile, and finally California. I keep dropping subtle hints that I could really use a new laptop, but the only electronics my mom has been looking into are a vehicle navigation system for this five-day drive adventure.

Comparing your friends’ parents to your own is funny in the way that makes you want to break off your parents’ legs and beat them with them repeatedly until they admit that they’re wrong. My friend’s dad congratulated me for getting into school and seemed genuinely excited for me even though I’m not his daughter. My own father’s reaction was equally rewarding as he checked his bank statement and said, “How much is this going to cost me?” When I pointed out that his unwavering support and pride was considerably lower than average when judged against the other parents he replied, “Yeah, they’re happy because they don’t have to pay for it.”

Normally, I wouldn’t sound so bitter…if he had paid for college. If that were the case, I would have said, “No worries dad, this one’s on me,” as if I were buying a round of drinks. Unfortunately, I have thousands of dollars worth of loans which legally indicates the bank has been the one footing the bar bill for quite some time now.

The one horrible thing about going back to school is filling out those damn financial aid forms. I hate paperwork with a passion. I hate how you have to fill out your name, address, city, state and zip a hundred times, on every form. I’ve tried putting address return labels on them to save time and have gotten the paperwork sent back to me because the powers that be wanted to see it written out by hand.

But the financial aid is the worst. You ask the parents for help and they ask you a million questions why you need their taxes and W2 forms. “Why are you applying for? Why don’t they keep that stuff on file every year? What’s a pin number? What do you mean it’s in my email? I haven’t been online for 4 months I don’t even remember what my email address is! Can you create me a new email address? Are you sure you need my W2? I’ll just watch over your shoulder as you fill out the forms and won’t let you browse to the next page until I read over all the questions at least five times to make sure you’re getting all of this information right.” It’s enough stress to make the laziest of students motivated to one day (soon) no longer be categorized by the government as a dependent.

Ever look at your parents’ W2 and realize they’ve been making a lot more than they claim to? That’s why I think parents dread Financial Aid Form Fill Out Day. You’re going through all the numbers when it strikes you that they could have upgraded you to first class on the flight home for winter break, but claimed money was tight and said that the bus would be the best method of transportation. At the time you kinda want to say, “Interesting. It says here you made a combined total of $80,000 this year. Now I’m no accountant, but I think you can send me more than twenty bucks a month to live off of or I’m going to start to refer to you guys in public as Enron and World Com instead of Mom and Dad.”

Maybe that’s not all of you. Maybe you’re parents know how to operate email. Maybe they know how to operate their own computer without being on the phone with help from tech support. Maybe they even know what iTunes is and how to download music. Maybe they share their tax return with you to make your life a little easier. And if that’s the case, maybe I can come live at your house where your dad doesn’t have Best Buy’s Geek Squad on speed dial.

Ever wonder why so many parents give new cars to their kids on graduation day? It’s so that they can pack up all their shit and drive it home themselves. “No over-packing the minivan this year, son. We got you a two-door coupe. Hope everything you own fits in it.” Your parents would rather buy you a new car than answer the multitude of questions coming from your grandma in the backseat who you made hold your glass bong on her lap the whole way home so it wouldn’t break.

The last night before graduation is pretty important. Sure, you could spend the night hanging out with the family, but you also have to come to terms with the fact that the Saturday before graduation is the last college hookup you’ll ever have. Everyone knows that if there’s ever a time to make itcount, it’s then. It’s also the most stressful hook up you’ll ever have. Not only will it be difficult to choose who is worthy in the senior class, since your standards be soaring higher that night than they have ever been throughout your college career, but you’ll have to figure out a nice way to tell them to get the hell out of your room before mom and dad pop over in the morning to tell you again just how proud they are of what a mature and responsible adult you turned out to be.

And if you can pull that last night off smoothly, well then, you don’t need a diploma to tell you just how accomplished you are.