Five years after heading out on our big trip, Greta is getting ready for her next great adventure. She was enrolled for freshman year at UW, majoring in environmental science, but as the pandemic progressed this spring, it became clear that college was either just not going to happen, or it was going to suck. Maybe her online classes would be as good as in-person classes (well, we seriously doubted this), but that is such a small part of the experience of freshman year that she didn’t see the point. So she began casting about for alternatives. Working in Hendricks Park, she met a group of AmeriCorps volunteers, and thought that sounded like a possibility. She applied, got in, and she’ll be heading off next month. (One of her application essays explained how she had already been to most of the country, and that she’d like to go back and spend more time working in some of those places.)
She’ll be at the Aurora, Colorado AmeriCorps base in October, quarantining and training. Then with her team of about ten young people, she’ll travel around the Southwest Region (Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming), working on community-based projects. They’ll stay in campgrounds, church basements, hostels, etc. They’ll do their own cooking, and they’ll form their own pod during the pandemic. As we talked about the risks, Greta observed that it’s probably safer than being on a college campus.
After we returned home four years ago, Greta had a great high school experience – singing in the choir, getting into more outdoor activities, interning in the local park, achieving a level of academic performance beyond my own, and being part of the robotics team for four years – as team co-captain her senior year. It all came to a rather anticlimactic end spring term with the pandemic lock-down, as did everyone else’s year.
Although I’d spent years fretting about her leaving home, and about how diminished our lives would be without her around, when we were suddenly confronted with a world on hold, I realized that even more than I might have wanted her to stay with us, I wanted her to live the life she’s meant to. The three of us have been hanging around the house for the past six months, and Greta really needs to get away from her parents and get on with her life. She was primed for an intense college experience, but in keeping with how we evaluate everything in 2020, we all think this is the least-bad option.
About five and a half years ago, I was sitting in the kitchen while Greta unloaded the dishwasher. I mentioned that I had been pretty fed up with things, and thought I needed a change (she had noticed). I said I had decided to take a year off (she nodded), and I was going to hit the road for a year (she stared at me). Then I told her I wanted her to come with me. She didn’t say anything, just kept unloading the dishwasher as I floated some preliminary ideas on how I thought things might go. Finally, she looked over at me and said, Dad, this is going to be an adventure – I want to have adventures! I said, yes, but your first adventure has to be with your dad – this will be your starter adventure; after that, you’re on your own.
So now she’s ready to be on her own. While I have a parent’s normal anxieties about Greta heading off on her own, they’re not worries about her capabilities (they’re more worries about her being out there where heavily-armed militias are marching around without masks). She’s smart, she’s sensible, she adapts to circumstances, and she’s great at dealing with groups of people. I like to think that the prior year on the road gave her some of those qualities, and I expect that by the time she gets back she’ll be a fully-fledged grown-up.
I don’t know if she’ll post anything on this blog during the year – she tends more towards writing fan fic online than to social media of any type. But I will post occasional updates on Facebook. If you’re out there in the middle of the country where she’s heading, please make sure we have your contact information – I’d like to give Greta a list of safe houses where she could bail out of the boogaloo. Or maybe she could just give you a call if she’s in the vicinity. We think she’s going to have an amazing year, and she’ll probably make it to Arkansas and Oklahoma before I do.