In my head, I have a list of the stupidest decisions I have ever made, a Mount Rushmore of “Why?” and “How?” — even though I know exactly why and how.
These weren’t accidents. They were choices, products of deep and agonized thought where I weighed everything with exceeding care … before taking what was obviously, in retrospect, the regrettable path.
None of these decisions ruined me, and one could make the case that I’m all the stronger for them.
But now, I’m about to take my daughter to college, and I wonder if it’s the action that’s going to be the singular destructive moment of my life.
I mean, amazing, huh? Let’s pause and ponder how a moment that should have been an unmitigated celebration has turned into one of fear.
I don’t need to tell you why I’m scared. From the moment the pandemic altered all of our lives, Young Miss Weisman’s college experience has been at the forefront of my worries. And the initial reports this month from schools that have students on campus — even schools whose classes are completely online, like USC — are beyond discouraging. Student newspaper editorials are angry cries for help and competence, justifiably so.
My daughter’s school seems as prepared as it could possibly be. Administrators have outlined detailed plans to us — led by an immediate two-week quarantine for every arriving student — and if anything have overcommunicated them to us. We have so much information about precautions and potential responses that I have to remind myself to wonder what classes she’s going to be taking.
It’s my hope that this preparation will separate her school from the others where students are testing positive by the dozens, if not by the hundreds. But is that arrogance? Is that naiveté?
My wife, daughter and I are 10 days away from heading to LAX and opening ourselves up to the world we have made such efforts to protect ourselves from for nearly six months. We are about to let her loose among a group of people who are absolutely yearning for connection. And even if it seems unthinkable that if she catches the coronovirus she will die, we have every reason to fear the long-term effects of an illness that the medical and scientific community do not have a handle on.
For that matter, with two other kids at home, my wife and I are putting ourselves at risk. So far, air travel and hotel stays have generated fewer reports of coronavirus transmission than schools have, but safety is hardly assured.
So why is this happening?
My daughter wants to go, and I don’t blame her. I want her to go. My wife wants her to go. As I wrote in April, freshman year on campus is an experience unlike any other in our lifetimes, and it simply seems unthinkable to abandon it. Postponing the start of college never gained any traction, either.
Even if she doesn’t get ill, but her school finds by the end of September that its plan was untenable and decides to send all students right back home, I feel it will have been worth it just for my daughter to have a foundation for college life to build upon. It’s that important to her, and that important to us.
If that’s selfish, we have to own it.
If she gets sick, when I knew the risks, I have to own it.
It won’t be the first unthinkably dumb thing I’ve done. But it could be the worst. And I’m sitting here, unable to take any other path. My Mount Rushmore of mistakes awaits.