Dear Sean

DEAR SEAN:

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.

Thanks,
MIXED-UP-IN-HUNTSVILLE

DEAR MIXED-UP:

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?

35 comments

  1. Dolores S. Fort - October 10, 2020 7:20 am

    Great advice, Sean, for what really matters!

    Reply
  2. Dolores S. Fort - October 10, 2020 7:21 am

    I just noticed that the time entered is off by 5 hours. It is now 2:20 am at my home. Interesting, I wonder why the difference of 5 hours.

    Reply
  3. Lindy Lou - October 10, 2020 8:15 am

    Oh, my what a wonderful way to look at life and life’s choices! This should make all of us think hard and be thankful! Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Sean! (And you ARE wise) i loved this!

    Reply
  4. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - October 10, 2020 9:44 am

    Deloris Fort,
    Many have noticed this time difference. I assume the company that handles this is actually located outside the U.S. When we comment they post it at the correct time for them. It would be simple enough for them to change the time zone but I guess it’s not important to them.
    I do hope my explanation helped.
    Steve from B’ham.

    Reply
  5. Sharon L. Lawson - October 10, 2020 10:09 am

    Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Morton Vice - October 10, 2020 10:51 am

    Beautifully written

    Reply
  7. Leslie in NC - October 10, 2020 10:52 am

    Sean, you hit the nail on the head! No, it won’t matter which college, what car, how big and lavish the house, without those who loved and love you, life is well, pretty meaningless. I don’t have a fancy degree as obtaining an Associates Degree at night was all I could handle as a working single mother. I drive an 18 year old car and don’t own a home. But, most importantly, I also don’t have a wall with pictures of those who love me. Sadly, I am estranged from my family and I truly don’t even know why since no one will talk about it, though I’ve tried over the years more times than I can count. So, I hope your dear reader takes your advice to heart, can look ahead to the future and nurture all the love that comes her way throughout her life. Because in the end, that’s all that matters.

    Reply
  8. Terri - October 10, 2020 11:20 am

    I love you Sean.

    Reply
  9. Deborah L Blount - October 10, 2020 11:35 am

    Perfect answer. Her life is just beginning.

    Reply
  10. Jane Elder - October 10, 2020 11:37 am

    You hit the proverbial nail right on the head.

    Reply
  11. Marilyn Vance - October 10, 2020 11:39 am

    …or if you even WENT to college…..sometimes it’s better just to learn a trade…..

    Reply
  12. Virginia Russell - October 10, 2020 11:39 am

    Nice

    Reply
  13. Robert M Brenner - October 10, 2020 11:56 am

    That was spectacular! Don’t you ever stop writing these glorious letters to younger people! Saint Sean, you are wonderful. By the way your line of people to say hello and thanks may require God to make heaven a little bigger ❤️😇

    Reply
  14. debbie glaser - October 10, 2020 12:05 pm

    Sean, Thank you once again for putting things in perspective ❤️

    Reply
  15. Lifetime Chicago - October 10, 2020 12:29 pm

    I was just trying to kindly suggest this to someone who is putting so much pressure on their senior year daughter….Parents are really pushing for the college that offers the most profitable internships….not what she wants. I understand that you want to lead your children but… This is great!

    Reply
  16. David - October 10, 2020 12:36 pm

    Just shared this with my wonderful wife of 48 years, our two sweet daughters (who now both have two daughters of their own) and our beautiful granddaughter – a senior in high school. My eyes are ‘sweating.’ Thanks again, Sean.

    Reply
  17. Jackie - October 10, 2020 1:22 pm

    Great advise to anyone – young , middles aged or old! The people we love is what matters.

    Reply
  18. MermaidGrammy - October 10, 2020 1:58 pm

    Dear Sean,
    My sisters, daughters, nieces, granddaughters and nephew recently buried my 96 year old momma. I’ll be next, I expect – but not for 20 years. This is so exactly spot on true, I have to thank you. I guess these are read by someone not you, but maybe it will have an effect on that person. Her walls, too, reflected her life and love. Thank you again

    Reply
  19. Becca - October 10, 2020 2:20 pm

    Awesome! And the best answer you could have given this young woman! God bless!

    Reply
  20. Sheri Russell - October 10, 2020 2:48 pm

    True. Yet..all steps lead to the next step. Where do we meet those who mean the most? Maybe while at that school or at that job? I donno. Maybe that school or that job made all of those photos and family and friends a reality. I don’t know that either. I do know that every decision we make leads to the next. And I know that every word you wrote is true.

    Reply
  21. sharon suleski - October 10, 2020 3:09 pm

    one day at a time sweet Jesus 2 is too many and each day that your life is ok thank the Lord just keep trying

    Reply
  22. Jerry - October 10, 2020 3:24 pm

    Your answer is wonderful, Sean, but I do not think it will satisfy the young lady who asked. She’s in the “now” and wants to know where to turn. There are many tools available that will help a young person decide what they want to do in life. Most high school guidance departments have these. I suggest that the young lady ask at her school for help in making these decisions. BTW: There are also many tools online where you are asked your preferences and, based on your replies, career path options are suggested to you. After deciding what you want to do, you can search for colleges that specialize in your areas of interest.

    Reply
  23. Tom - October 10, 2020 3:45 pm

    Great answer. I wished I had your wisdom and could put it it in words as you do. Yes, it is all about out friends and family and the time we spend with them.

    Reply
  24. Linda Moon - October 10, 2020 4:35 pm

    The only “cure” for old age is to die young. This is somewhat of a mantra for my guy and me who have become old, but have loved others who didn’t make it past young. We miss them terribly. There’s been lots of heavenly people in our long lives, and one of them for me is an advice columnist who calls himself “Dear Sean”. So, our answer to this columnist’s final question is “No”.

    Reply
  25. MAM - October 10, 2020 4:54 pm

    Well said, as I am the one with a wall (some virtual and in albums), but as Sheri above said, every step leads to the next one. I had more than one offer for my very first REAL job, but the one I chose that chose me led me to my husband of 52 years. So, I truly believe God has a hand in where one’s next step goes. I could greatly expand on this topic on how my mom and dad met. If my dad had taken a different job, he wouldn’t have met Mom and I wouldn’t exist. Pay attention to those steps, but don’t worry too much in the moment, if you are led in a direction different from what you THINK you want. Trust God.

    Reply
  26. Ted and MJ Bennett - October 10, 2020 5:01 pm

    Wow! One of your best, Sean.

    Reply
  27. Mary Martin - October 10, 2020 6:38 pm

    I love this, Sean. Thank you for always knowing the words that express our true meaning in life!

    Reply
  28. Pat - October 10, 2020 10:28 pm

    Maybe his articles are posted on Greenwich Mean time…It is 5 hours ahead of our central time zone. Just a maybe.

    Reply
  29. Melanie Levy - October 10, 2020 10:31 pm

    Why is it that more often than not, I have tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat when I read your words? Do you have ANY idea what a gift you are to people like me? Thank you, Sean, for being you…

    Reply
  30. turtlekid - October 10, 2020 11:17 pm

    Sean Paul, your retrospective of life is profound. Young folks believe every decision is crucial and life altering…but it isn’t. You begin something and change your mind. Accidents circumvent life’s plans. New acquaintances offer different perspectives that divert your intentions. In the final analysis, it will be what our Creator was intending…if you let Him lead you.i started college on a scholarship, but within weeks decided to elope! Ha ha. We just celebrated 61 years together.

    Reply
  31. Terry V Robbins - October 11, 2020 2:32 am

    A dang good read with a great message!

    Reply
  32. David - October 11, 2020 4:42 pm

    Leslie in NC, don’t quit! Find some people. I feel at least some of your pain, but I’m a long way off. Despite Corona, I guarantee that there are several churches nearby you. In at least one of these churches you will find at least one person whose faith and trust in and friendship with God will enable them to be a friend and introduce you an even better friend, Jesus, and stay with you while you get to know him and others who also know him.Take that risk now, don’t delay hoping things will spontaneously get better while you’re alone.

    Reply
  33. Sue K. - October 11, 2020 7:22 pm

    Dear Sean,
    Your words to this anxious teenager resonated so loudly with me. No, I’m not a youngster like this, but rather a 61 year old at the other end of a 40 year career as a Certified Medical Assistant that recently ended rather abruptly outside of my plan or control. I had been searching other possibilities for employment when COVID hit. I had pretty much decided to hang my stethoscope up for good after enjoying several months of freedom and flexibility that afforded more time with my husband, family and friends as well as meaningful volunteer opportunities. Then one of my own physicians urged me to apply for a position in her office. I have been struggling with this decision over the past week while asking God to reveal with clarity His will for these next few years of my life. I truly believe that He used your response to this young person to speak to me. It became very clear to me, as I read and absorbed your words (with tears in my eyes), that a few more paychecks used to acquire a few more things are not worth the trade off of time to spend with those I love and doing things that really matter to those in need. Thank you for your profound insights on life. You are a blessing to your readers and listeners.

    Reply
  34. Anne Riemer - October 11, 2020 9:12 pm

    What an encouraging response not only to a young person anxious about a big decision, but to 65 year old me. Time to grab my husband and give him a huge hug. Thank you Sean!

    Reply
  35. Brett Campbell - October 14, 2020 8:21 pm

    Teared up reading this one. Great job once again, brother!

    Reply

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