college, acceptance, and grocery bags of mail




My youngest daughter has been getting college mail. She’s known for the last year what her pool of preferred school was. She got in to her top two last fall and has done all her paperwork for freshman orientation at “The One.” Obviously, she doesn’t need the mail. It goes straight into the lovely blue Crate and Barrel Outlet recycling bin. 


This is so completely different than what I did with my college mail.

I saved my college mail in brown paper grocery bags. Several of them. I got a LOT of college mail. I never threw any of it out. Not even the smallest postcard from some 154-college-body liberal arts college in North Dakota I had NO intention of even driving past. Every envelope got stuffed into a grocery bag and stashed in my closet, right beneath my brother’s fifteen years or so of National Geographic. I saved it all.

Why did I do this? Was I an early candidate for Hoarders? Showing a commitment to Reduce/Reuse/Recycle before it was fashionable? REALLY desperate for late night reading material?

A few years into college, obviously,
since I didn’t even start dating this
handsome dude until senior year.
You have to understand the atmosphere of my high school life as it was. Debate team, straight-A, band geek. All the beautiful Farrah-hair I so carefully achieved couldn’t mask the truth–I was a complete nerd. No where else on earth was anyone clamoring for my favor. But those colleges were.

Hey, I was a reject by everyone else. The fact that hundreds of colleges did seem to want me around? That was heady stuff. I might have gilded the letter from Harvard. 

I have zero comprehension of my daughter, who clicks her tongue in annoyance at her ipod and whines, “Another email. From another school. Why won’t they quit bugging me???”

I was thrilled to be wanted. Too thrilled. It became all that I was. And that, girls and boys, is never, ever good.

I know better now, but I still see it all around me. Sigh. And yes, in me. 

Girls who will do anything to feel wanted by a boy. It’s become all they are.

Adults who will do anything to retain a job. Even if they hate it. Even if what they’re doing feels wrong. It’s not the security of employment—it’s the identity of feeling important.

Women who will do anything to remain a princess in their perfect home, because questioning the facade might mean someone won’t approve of them.

Christians who harbor doubts and question accepted black and white who keep those thoughts locked up so their “friends” won’t start keeping their distance.


Hanging on to acceptance– 
even acceptance from places we never intend to go, from people we shouldn’t listen to. 

It’s still heady stuff. But what does it get you? Five paper bags of junk mail stuffed in a closet that you don’t want, don’t need, and don’t know how to get out of your life. We all know, the longer we hold on to the need to be accepted, the harder it is to get rid of its trigger. It’s surgery, and no one without Munchausen’s volunteers for that.

I only applied to one college. One. It’s all I wanted or needed. I knew where God was nudging me to go. So why not just listen? Avoid all the junk clamoring for my attention, promising security and happiness and identity, and listen. I might have heard something like, 

“You are a chosen people . . . God’s very own possession. Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people.” (1 Peter 2.10-11) 

Identity enough, right?

I am glad, though my younger self would be mystified, that my daughter knows where she’s headed and feels no need to find acceptance in empty words cased in envelopes and paper bags. She knows Who has ultimately accepted her and isn’t looking elsewhere. I wish I had been so wise at seventeen. But then, I guess someone had to teach her. 

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