“Letters from Mom”

Mom wrote me hundreds of letters and would often send me greeting cards with snipped comics or articles from newspapers or magazines she thought I'd enjoy.

Here’s a letter mom wrote me in the first semester of my freshman year of college. I must have been panicking about writing a term paper or something; I was always dramatically overwrought about my grades during my first couple of years of college. (I was worried about losing my many scholarships if my grades slipped, and without them there would have been no way for me to afford to stay in school.)

Anil was my roommate in the dorms. I have no idea now who Catherine was or why I would have visited or written to her.

Dearest David,

Just another quickie. I hope this doesn’t make you feel cheap. Never mind, I get weird in the mornings. Where was I?

It’s great talking to you. You sounded like you were having fun last night working on your Desire & Power paper. Just don’t have too much fun. There’s a thesis for you; define too much fun.

Listen, I don’t know what anyone else is writing to you, but don’t sweat the stress stuff. I mean, if you get pulled in a million different directions and feel like it’s too much, just give me a call – we’ll talk it out – or we’ll go into the resources you have at U.F. to help. Just don’t put more stress on yourself by being worried about being stressed out on top of everything else. Take it from one who knows.

Now, about those responsibilities. Ok – so you have some. Everybody does — a newborn has the responsibility to eat and     . They just don’t take things to heart the way we first borns do. Anyway, maybe it would help to list them and then prioritize them. And don’t just list the ones you don’t care for right now. You have some fun ones, too. Yeah, you need to maintain a certain GPA to ge the money. Everyone there needs to maintain a certain GPA just to stay there. So, you have the brains and drive to handle more than moron level. If you don’t, what happens? Is your life over? Are you a failure? Maybe some people would see it that way. Most don’t. There are always other choices. And, almost always, other chances. I guess to some people, I’m a failure. I didn’t finish school; my marriage failed; I’m extremely overweight; I’m always broke. Am I a failure? Hell, no. I have more love in my life than most people, David, and occasional peace and moments of glorious joy, and some strength to handle the rough stuff, and self awareness, and knowledge, and insight, and the ability to make people laugh and feel better. Am I a failure?

So, how does David measure his successes? Are you a success because you’re a National Merit Scholar? Or because you cared enough about Anil not to want to hurt his feelings by moving out? Are you a success because of the Crest of the Wave? Or because you took the time to write and to visit Catherine? Are you a success because of any grade you ever got? Or because sometimes, when you’re sitting under a tree studying, you get to be one with the universe for a split second?

I would like you not to have to look back in thirty years and say, “I ruined my life because of the things I did in college (ie – you know).” Actually, I’d like you to be around in 30 years, so be careful! Anyway, ruining a life takes a lot more work than you may be willing to do. And you have a good foundation – your heart, whether you know it or not, is good. And so’s your head.

And you’ve got me! And Jenny. And Dad – though mostly take his “advice” with a 5-lb. bag of salt.

I gotta go — just when I was getting really deep! Chill out, hon. (That doesn’t mean party. In fact, partying may be part of your stress.) Just relax. Enjoy learning. Enjoy figuring out what each prof wants or needs from you. Enjoy making new friends.

Or – just bum out if you feel like it. Get homesick once in a while. It helps.

I love you,