Sam and I were recently given a copy of Monsters University (which comes out on Blu-ray this month) to watch together. I have to admit that at first, I was skeptical... A movie about college, for toddlers? But Sam loved the adorable and hilarious characters, and I found its overall message really positive and thought-provoking. So much so, in fact, it made me want to jot down a few things for my own little monster to read one day...
I know you are only two years old right now and talking to you about the future and your education and hopes and dreams seems a little bit ridiculous, but bear with me here for a few minutes... This is important stuff, and a tiny bit of me fears that I, too, will become one of the disillusioned parents caught up in the rat-race of test scores, GPAs, and college-acceptance letters somewhere in the next sixteen years. Promise me you'll pull this out then, ok?
First, let me tell you a little bit about your mama when she was younger... (For context, of course!)
I was a really good girl in high school. I had an impressive resume, a lot of "titles," and I was in all the "smart classes." BUT, I didn't make the best grades ever. They weren't BAD grades, but they weren't straight As by any stretch. My SAT (oh, be glad you don't know what those are yet) scores weren't that good either. Average. Just average.
Most of my friends thought I was really smart; but, the truth was, I just worked really hard. I also got stressed out a lot and had crying fits to my mom and dad at midnight on the night before a big test. It really wasn't very pretty.
My junior year of high school, after a good friend who was a year older than me got accepted there, I set my sites on Clemson University in South Carolina. It met all of my criteria for college -- it had a reputable name, a big alumni/football fan base, just the right number of students, a beautiful campus, a cute mascot, and really great school colors. BUT, when senior year started, my guidance counselor told me she didn't think I could get in. She said I had a "50/50 shot" which was NOT good enough for me.
I wasn't used to not getting what I wanted (some might even have called me spoiled), so I considered not even applying to Clemson. There were other "safer" schools closer to home/ my family/ my boyfriend (who is now your daddy)/ etc. where I wouldn't run the risk of being disappointed. But, I did it anyway. I wrote a personal statement about my hatred for ketchup, sought out good recommendation letters from my favorite teachers, and prayed... a lot.
And... Well, you already know the outcome of this story - I got in.
It's kind-of a boring story actually, isn't it? I promise, at the time, it felt very dramatic.
Anyway, here's the point: When I first got to Clemson, I struggled a little bit. I got some really low grades on papers I had written, and (if I'm really being honest with myself) I had a hard time being the low "man" on the totem pole. At Clemson, no one cared that I had been the editor of the newspaper or a Senior class officer. There were thousands (literally) of people smarter and more "impressive" than me. That stings a little bit for a first-born overachiever - something tells me, you might understand one day.
My first semester was really hard. On top of all that, I was homesick and struggling to redefine myself outside of my comfort zone. It was so hard, in fact, that I filled out transfer applications to two of the colleges I had considered my "safe" schools before. To this day, I think if either of those schools had accepted mid-year transfers, my entire life might have been different...
Somewhere around the spring of that year, things started to click a little bit more. One of the big things was realizing that I didn't have to be THE best, I just had to be MY best. (FYI: This is a lesson I have had to learn over and over and over again in just about every realm of my life. Learn.it.fast.) This freed me up to actually learn in my classes instead of just trying to memorize what would be on the tests. It also gave me the courage to try things like the club lacrosse team (hilarious, I know) and Young Life leadership that I didn't make time for before. By the end of that first year, I was crying when my parents came to pick me up and take me home for the summer. I had made good friends (friends that are still my closest today), I had a better understanding of myself, and - shockingly - I actually made MUCH better grades when I wasn't stressing so much.
So... what do I want you to know about dreams, college, and the future? Oh, where do I begin?
- I want you to know, first and foremost, that your daddy and I are and will be proud of you no matter what road you take in life. I went to college far away from home, and tried to fully experience all the traditional things about college like living in a dorm, staying up all night in the library, and sharing a bathroom with four girls. Daddy lived off campus all four years, and worked the whole time he was a student. But, you know what? We both LOVED our college experience. They were valuable and right for us. We thought college was great and would be so happy to see you pave your own path in that direction; but, we're also happy with other roads too. We will FULLY support you whether you choose college or not and will always be proud of you for traveling in the direction of what you love. (We promise to also be the biggest fans, even if you choose a school other than Tech or Clemson!)
- I also want you to know that this time is s.h.o.r.t., and it really isn't worth it to spend it stressed out and anxious. I learned this the hard way buddy; but, take my word for it... Grades and test scores and impressive resumes are NOT the most important things in this world. They are good things, and fine things to strive for, but they aren't the bottom line. You are SO MUCH MORE than the numbers on your transcript or your class rank. Don't let yourself be defined by those things, ok? Be defined by how you care about people, and how you love what you do. Those things will get you SO much farther than a high GPA. I promise. (This is totally going to bite me in the butt one day, isn't it.)
- And finally, Sam, I want you to know that FALLING isn't the same as FAILING. There are going to be bumps in the road bud. There might even be some pretty big pot-holes. There will be people that want to tell you your dreams are too big, too far-fetched, too hard -- DON'T listen to them. When you fall down, you get back up. (Oh, the bruises on your knees are a testament to the fact that you're quite good at this already.) When things don't go as you'd planned, you enjoy the scenery on the detour and you KEEP ON DRIVING. Believe in yourself, never give up on your dreams.
I love you little monster, and I can't wait to see what your dreams and your future holds! (Ok, I can wait... I lied.)
Let's be honest, Sam is going to grow up in a world where second graders know what college they want to go to and what they have to do to get there. My prayer for him is that, in the midst of all those pressures and expectations, he doesn't lose his ability to dream big. While I think Monsters University is a great movie for families with a fun storyline that even the littlest of monsters can enjoy, it is a movie I want to OWN because it's message is so powerful and it opens so many doors for conversations with kids about education, the future, and believing in yourself. It will, for sure, be a part of our video library!
(Here's a little sneak peek for ya!)
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