Our motto is “Finding college without losing yourself.” Do you want to know why?
Without realizing it, many people forget who they are when considering their future. They look at where they want to be, identify who holds the keys to make that happen, and they try and make themselves into something that would appeal to that gatekeeper. It could be a teacher, an employer, or an admissions officer, but the pattern is similar: ask what they want and become that.
I know because I have done it myself. I was exceptionally good at transforming myself into whatever version best suited someone else. There is a kind of natural gravity to the behavior, always there, gently pushing you to “grow” into someone else’s image.
The thing with patterns though is that they repeat, and this evolution through mimicry always ended the same for me: with me being successful on paper, but never recognizing myself in mirrors.
Jimmy Buffett tells his own version of this story from his early days of shopping his music along Nashville’s Music Row, a world famous stretch of road where music labels and recording studios sit packed, shoulder-to-shoulder. This was well before he discovered his popular island-infused muse in Key West. At this point, he was busking and grinding in Nashville as a starving country-folk musician.
He was playing his song “The Captain and the Kid” for a music executive. The song is a beautiful ode to Buffett’s Grandfather, who lived much of his life as a merchant sailor, and who had a tremendous impact on Buffett. The song’s final verse goes like this:
He died about a month ago
While winter filled the air
And though I cried, I was so proud
To love a man so rare
He's somewhere on the ocean now
A place he outta be
With one hand on the starboard rail
He's wavin' back at me
After finishing, the exec looked at Buffett and said, “Love the song, but can you change it so that guy doesn’t die at the end?”
Taken back, Buffett replied, “No.”
“Why not?” asked the executive.
The soon to be famous singer responded simply, “Because he did.”
That executive, like many other authorities, are not mean spirited; he was genuinely trying to help. It’s just that the world he inhabits treats authenticity as a choice, like choosing what kind of jacket to wear. Like Buffett, we can choose to tell our story how it happened though, and be true to ourselves. That's the world we can inhabit. If that doesn’t suit the person on the other side of the gate, then it’s not a gate that deserves us.
The college search isn’t about the college, it’s about the search. The learning about and finding out what kind of environment feeds your spirit, excites your mind and heart, requires you to ask tough questions of yourself. The challenging, but yet beautiful, truth is that only you can answer these questions. Yes, this business of growing into adulthood is a messy process, full of fits and starts, and sometimes backtracking, but our direction always endeavors to our true north, being ourselves, right or wrong.
Know though that you are not alone in this process. Surround yourself with people who can help you listen better to yourself. If nothing else, I’m here to listen and would be honored to hear your story and tell you mine.