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The Lesson of the Rutabaga

When I was in my last year of college I lived in a rundown apartment in Willimantic, Connecticut. Willimantic was seven miles from Storrs and the University of Connecticut. Seven miles is far when you don’t have a car. I didn’t have a car. I had a bike; but bikes suck in New England winters. I also had the bus, and a 24 hour library, and the couches of friends when I didn’t catch the last bus home.

I was college student poor. So poor that I recall one day having no money and only a rutabaga to eat. To this day I can’t eat a rutabaga and not think of that girl that was me so long ago. It wasn’t so bad, I like rutabagas.

I think of that story tonight as my daughter is away at college (post bac) and presently has $10 to her name and no groceries. I was sharing this news with Chris and he had me recall my college days. He said he had many days himself when $10 would have been a fortune. Ten bucks can get you a weeks worth of Top Ramen at least. Truth be told my daughter has it pretty good, despite this small setback. Money is on its way; and she is learning what it is to be resourceful and independent. There is something inherently affirming about taking care of oneself.

I told my son this at the beginning of summer. “You need a job,” I said, “not just so you can make money, but because it’s empowering to take responsibility for yourself.”

It’s excruciating to watch your kids struggle, there’s no denying it. I have to believe that there is a greater gift I can give my daughter than worry. She will come out of this stronger and wiser and likely proud of herself.

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