This sign posted outside Ucluelet Secondary School celebrates the West Coast's newest graduates.

Behest of the West: Don’t be scared of being scared

It’s graduation season on the West Coast and that means we’re about to unleash a new crop of adults into the world.

Now is the perfect time to panic.

Not because of the tourists pouring in, who we love, but because of the kids pouring out, who we love—probably more so.

It’s graduation season on the West Coast and that means we’re about to unleash a new crop of adults into the world.

Everybody’s terrified.

Whether they’re heading straight to college, taking time off to travel or staying where the surf is and joining the local workforce, their world is about to change and that’s terrifying.

Not so much for them. They’re likely stoked on what’s ahead and they should be. They’re revving their engines and merging onto the road of adulthood where curfews don’t exist, dates can happen on school nights and candy can be what’s for dinner.

Some of them will take the fast train to responsibility. Some already have. Others will milk that sweet spot between childhood and adulthood for as long as they can.

Regardless of the boat they’re on, anyone who played a role in raising them is scared for them.

They’re scared for all the same reasons the generation before them was scared.

They’re scared their kids are going to throw the idea of curfews out the window, take dates out on school nights and think it’s OK to eat candy for dinner.

Those are, of course, quaint things to fear. There are much realer reasons to be terrified. Living on Vancouver Island, particularly this Coast, gives us all front row seats to scarce employment opportunities and even scarcer housing options. The world they’re entering is a scary place and it’s easy to worry about how they’ll fare heading into it.

It’s good to be scared. It means we care.

We’re not scared because we fear our graduates won’t reach their potential. Though that’s the line we use. We’re scared because, despite our best efforts to fight this feeling, we can’t help but think that without our direct supervision, they’ll make decisions that will move them further from happiness.

Parents and caregivers are terrified of unhappiness. Unhappiness is their arch nemesis and they will stop at nothing to prevent unhappiness from reaching their kids.

They believe their presence has kept unhappiness at bay. Whether their kid is heading to a dorm room at UVic, a hostel in Paris or a West Coast room-share, now is the perfect time for them to panic because they feel unhappiness has an opening.

The two times I saw my mother cry the hardest was the night Patrick Swayze died and the morning she dropped me off at college.

The former I understood completely. Dirty Dancing had a profound impact on her generation. The latter, though, vexed me.

When I say she dropped me off at college, I don’t mean she drove me down the street. She traveled with me from Victoria to Prince George, undoubtedly keeping her eye out for unhappiness along the way.

Mom wasn’t the only hawk-eyed chaperone mingling amongst the wide-eyed freshman hauling their bags into dorm rooms. The University of Northern British Columbia knew what it was dealing with and hosted a special orientation day for out-of-town parents. Sheldon Harnick’s Sunrise, Sunset was reportedly sung.

Those hawk-eyes turned to drenched ones when it came time for her to leave.

It’s easy to laugh at times like these because they’re adorable moments that show us how vulnerable the people who committed their lives to keeping unhappiness away from us can be. But there are a lot of reasons why that very specific moment when mom lost the fight against holding back tears is a powerful memory I cherish. She was scared because she cared.

As we watch this year’s graduating class head into the unknown, let’s forget about hiding our fear and embrace it. Who knows what our tears will motivate our kids to accomplish?

 

Andrew Bailey is the editor of the Westerly News. You can find his weekly column ‘Behest of the West’ on page 4 of our print edition every Wednesday.