The Lists That Lie Ahead

Like many marketers, I’m a list person. I make lists to solve problems. I make lists to make sense of the world. At any given moment, I’m surrounded by a series of lists. I’ve got long-term lists of where I want to be in 10 years and how I’m hoping to get there. I’ve got lists of places I want to visit. And I’ve got short-term lists reminding me to do things like take the trash out later.

Today, we moved our oldest child into his dorm to start his freshman year of college. Once again, lists have gotten me through most of this emotional peak on the parenting roller coaster.

College search? Let’s make a list of what you’re looking for in a school. Graduation? Work the list: Turn in your work, fill out the forms, get the robe (“Did you order the robe?!”), show up at the ceremony, walk across the stage. Graduation party? It’s a list party—guest list, supply list, thank-you-card list! Orientation? The university gives you several lists. Packing? Let’s make a list of what you have and what we need to go get.

I say list-making has gotten me through most of this. That’s because, as I’m writing this, it’s the day before he moves out and I’m out of lists. Left to my own devices, I find myself making lists that make me blubber and cry. Last family meal (for a while) … Last time we’ll all sit and watch a movie together (for a while) …

List-making is a blessing and a curse. I’m trying to focus on other lists. The lists that come with moving on to exciting new phases in life. A list of the crazy, fun times that college and your first experiences of living alone brings. A list of new friends, dynamic teachers, divergent views, and more.

College is an amazing time—especially at the University of Iowa where my son is headed. That’s probably why I never really left. I came to Iowa City in the fall of 1997 and graduated in 2001. After a decade in the field, I returned to teach and have been there since. Things change. But sometimes they haven’t changed as much as you thought. Or feared.

And sometimes you don’t know that until you stop and look at the lists behind you and think about the lists that lie ahead.