Advice for My College Freshman
My oldest daughter starts college in a few weeks. She’s going to live on campus and she’s pretty excited. I’m happy for her but sad she’s not going to be under my roof. Because I only graduated myself in 2003 I feel like I have some practical advice for her that is still relevant. I insisted she take English 101 and English 102 her first year because they were invaluable to me when I was in school. I’ve talked to her about budgeting and eating healthy and trying to get a little exercise. My wife went away to school while I commuted so she covers campus life, social advice and boys. Then we talked about drinking and drugs.
When she was younger we had the standard ‘Just Say No’ discussion about those items. Drugs and alcohol were bad and she should avoid them at all costs. But now she is almost 18. She has access to the internet. She goes to rated-R movies. My prior advice that all drugs are equally dangerous isn’t going to survive much scrutiny. Right now she insists she would never try any kind of drugs. I said that once too. My 20s were a testament to how one’s principles change. So I imagine her reaching that moment where she decides to experiment and smokes a joint with a friend. When nothing bad happens she tries it again. Sooner or later she reaches the conclusion that dad wasn’t 100% truthful and she wonders what else I fibbed about.
What this reality calls for is a little more nuance. So recently we had what I call ‘The Drug Talk: Part II’. This talk was the one where I told her that not all drugs are the same. I won’t get into the specifics here but the gist of the conversation was, “If you REALLY feel like you want to try drugs, weed is pretty harmless.”
In some ways it feels completely irresponsible to tell her these things when I know marijuana is illegal and I really want her to stay sober until she is done with school BUT that just isn’t very realistic. Kids these days have pretty amazing bullshit detectors. They know that there aren’t many tales of marijuana abuse coming out of California but rural areas all over the country are being destroyed by meth. They read articles that talk about how hemp is basically a miracle plant with about a million uses and the Drug War seems completely ridiculous.
That’s the problem we have created for ourselves. I can go online and find government-sponsored information that will tell me how many drinks I can consume in five hours and still be legal to drive (answer: 6). I know that hard liquor does things to me that I don’t like while a few beers cause me no problems. I found this out through 100% legal trial and error. But kids get no similar advice on drugs. There are no quality controls. They are exposed to drugs that someone made in their bathtub because it can’t be produced legally. Our government’s drug polices just don’t make sense.
Growing up is pretty hard and parents do our best to guide our kids in the right direction but I can’t address every possible obstacle or choice she will face. On this subject though, I hope I’ve done the right thing.