A Race to the Start

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Dear incoming freshman,

You are about to experience one of life’s great transitions—far greater than any (cringe-worthy) middle and high school transitions you have experienced to date. As you prepare to leave home and enter the mysterious ecosystem of college, a bit of advice: Remain aware that although the road that leads there is an eventful and exciting one, it also ends faster than you’d ever think possible.

For me, the last 90 days of high school materialized as one long string of events: winter ball, my basketball senior night, college decisions, spring break, senior prom, yearbook signings and graduation all came and went in a blur of activity. I felt like all of the million things in which I had been involved during high school—from sports to AP classes to volunteer work—were over in an instant. My mom took countless pictures during this time—pictures of me with my prom date, of my admittance envelope from Davidson, of me in my cap and gown during graduation, and so on—and I’m glad she did because I can barely remember the details. Before I knew it, only days remained before my cross-country adventure. I didn’t mind; I was ready to leave home and enter a new “college” world.

Still, though I was ready for the next chapter in life, I was not prepared for the moment I would turn the page, so to speak. I remember that moment vividly: I stood at the door of my dorm room with my parents. I hugged both of them and told them that I would call home every week. We stood there awkwardly, and I realized that my parents didn’t want to say goodbye. To fill the silence, they began bombarding me with questions about food and laundry, as well as unsolicited last-minute pieces of advice.

Eventually, I decided I’d had enough. I said something smooth, like: “You can leave now.”

My dad blushed, but my mother took it in stride.

“He wants us to go. We should just go,” my mother said matter-of-factly to my dad. “Bye!” she sang brightly.

I said bye in return. She turned quickly, walking away. Dad followed. I went back in my room and sat by my new bed.

Then, as I let out a sigh of relief, happy to be free at last, I heard my mother begin to cry.

Royce Chen and his family arrive on Davidson’s campus.

We know that in academia, nobody gets anywhere alone. Isaac Newton proclaimed, “If I have seen further [than most], it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” I have a friend who goes so far as to assert that there are no more original thoughts (he staunchly believes that all our thoughts have already been thought by others).

In life, as in learning, we stand on the shoulders of giants. My door to higher learning and intellectual exploration was held open by those who went before me—the very people on whom I was so eager to close my dorm room door before getting on with my new life. The people who enabled my journey, who loved me enough to feed me, clothe me, deal with my moodiness and demand excellence of me to ensure that I would not enter the “real world” without a college education.

Dear incoming freshman: these next few months will be immeasurably eventful, exciting and impactful for you. Remember that this time is important for your parents as well. They will feel like they are losing a part of themselves.

I read a statistic that suggests by the end of high school we have already spent more than 90 percent of our total, lifetime in-person time with our parents. As you approach that 90 percent, I encourage you to take pictures with them, celebrate with them, laugh with them and cry with them. And maybe let them linger at your dorm room door just a bit longer.

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About Author

Royce Chen

Royce Chen '20 is from Fremont, California and plans to major in English. After Davidson, he hopes to enter into high school teaching or Christian ministry.

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