Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor –
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now –
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
- “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes (1922)
As a continued student of lifelong education, I am always amazed to how often I can find so many relevant messages and themes in older literature, current events (Thank you, Mr. President for that Education reform!), and popular culture.
In Hughes’ poem, a mother is explaining to her child what the world is really like after the protective bubblewrap comes off when you grow up. The metaphor is pretty powerful!
Life is not easy, not even after high school, not even after college. If anything, the contrast is even more profound and jarring. In high school, you lived in the safety net of regimented classes, free or reduced meals, extracurricular activities, and a growing social circle. Now in college, you live in a safety net of on-campus cliques, “free” money from financial aid (that you NEED to be using for books instead of those new sneakers!) and being on your own for the first time.
Then you graduate! What do I do ? Where do I go? Where do I live? At first, you are completely terrified at the idea of not being able to answer these questions with any form of conviction and confidence. I mean, you JUST graduated! Why do I have to have my life figured out RIGHT NOW??!!! The beautiful thing about this is YOU REALLY DON’T NEED TO HAVE ALL OF THE ANSWERS RIGHT NOW!
What your parents and older adults don’t tell you is that THEY didn’t know it all either! How reassuring, right??
But you better have a Game Plan or at least a sketch!