I’m a high-school senior and I’m confused about what to do when I graduate. I’m so lost and mixed up about which college I should pick, and thinking how weird this year is, I have bad anxiety, and I’m getting a lot of pressure about it. Please give me some advice.
One day, in the far-off future, when this world is more advanced than it is now, something will happen to you. Something cool.
Right now you’re a young woman and it’s hard to imagine the fast-paced future. But one day you might be living in a fiber-optic age where the world is über fast.
Everyone will be using futuristic high-tech devices that make today’s smartphones look like Playskool products.
Maybe there will be flying cars. Or perhaps we’ll have three-dimensional TVs so that, instead of simply watching horrifying 24-hour news, we can sit right in the anchor’s lap.
By then you will be old and gray. Perhaps you will have cataracts. Maybe your knees will hurt. Maybe your health won’t be great.
You might find yourself in the corner of your room at the Magnolia Manor Nursing Home, seated in your electric wheelchair, looking out a window at your flower boxes. Thinking.
Then, let’s say you turn from the window, wheel yourself to the hall, flip on the overhead light, and look at Your Wall.
Every room in this nursing facility—without exception—has a wall like this. A wall loaded with old photographs. Look at your wall. Doesn’t it just beat everything?
See the picture at the top? It’s your grandson after he snagged his first buck. Neon orange hat. Camo jacket. He looks just like his father did at that age.
There’s a photograph of your daughter. The colors are faded. She had just gotten out of the hospital after having her appendix surgery. Boy, was that a scary time to be a mother.
You almost didn’t make it to the ER in time. She was so little, screaming in pain in the backseat. You ran every red light in town and told the traffic cop exactly where he could go if he tried to give you a ticket.
There are photos of your late husband. It used to hurt you to look at them because you missed him so badly.
The photographs from when he coached Little League. He was a surrogate father to half the boys in the county. You were the team mother. Kids were always at your house, eating your casseroles, practicing sacrifice bunts in your backyard, wearing shoes on your carpet.
He was such a good man, your husband. He never made much money, but he was rich in family.
Below him is the photo of you posing before your first car. Look at you! Look how young you are! You were a baby! This was before you were married. Before your life had been overrun with screaming toddlers who only knew how to cry and poop, often doing both at the same time.
You were so innocent. So naive. So ambitious. You were standing beside that little car. A Ford. You were proud. How funny. To be proud of a car.
Your favorite pictures, however, are the family reunion photos. You have lots of them. One from every year of your adult life.
In the early images you’re standing among a youngish crowd. Everyone looks skinny, like teenagers. Healthy. Happy.
The middle-aged years tell a different story. Everyone at the reunion is pushing 50. They all look tired, swollen with carbs, like little spokespersons for the Michelin Tire company.
During the more recent pictures, other changes have occured. Everyone’s hair looks like snow. Everyone is all scrawny again, and hunched over. Lots of people are missing from your group, too.
Old age. There is no cure for it.
Also on your wall are the Little People in your life. Infants with wisps of blond hair. Towheads with pink cheeks and toothless smiles. Grandbabies learning to walk. Young boys learning to shoot bows and arrows. Daughters holding mixing bowls, trying to bake layer cakes.
Your life is spelled out on this wall. Year by year. Era by era. And your heart is full.
But I want you to notice something about this wall. Something very important.
There are no snapshots of your stunning career. Your college diploma isn’t hanging on this wall, either. Neither are any of your prestigious promotions or notable pay stubs. There are no blurbs from proud professors, giving you heaps of praise. No professional awards. No plaques. You see no framed bank statements proving that you were hot stuff.
It’s just people. That’s what hangs in this hallway.
Then it will dawn on you. You’ll realize that your time in this nursing home is short. Life itself is short. And there will come a day, maybe soon, when you will no longer have a wall, a wheelchair, nor flower boxes.
During your final hours it will be the same people from these photos who will gather around your bedside. To kiss your face. To hold you. To tell you how much they love you.
And it will be your loved ones who wait for you on The Other Side. Your late husband, standing at the heavenly bannister, anxiously awaiting your arrival. They will be calling your name when you sprint through the clouds toward whatever beauty comes next.
Now I ask you. In this moment I just described, will it matter which college you went to?