Where Is Home Going to Be?

Momservation: I don’t care if you’re a Bronco, Gaucho, Bear or Bruin. I just need to know where your new home will be and how I can get to you.

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It’s March and to most people that means Spring is a few short weeks away with hopefully the promise of warmer days.

Or maybe it means it’s time to stop procrastinating getting your taxes done.

Or for my Irish friends—is there any other reason for March than St. Patrick’s Day and its season pass to get really drunk and group-sing loudly?

Ah, but for the parents of high school seniors, March is the month that the obsessive checking of college portals will finally end and reveal its truth to anxious parents and seniors alike.

Either your mantra of “Hard work pays off” will be validated or you’ll be discredited as a sage and wise parent while your devastated child sobs, “You lied!” and declares their life officially ruined.

So, yes, March is coming in like a lion in my household and it would save us a lot of drama if it will go out wearing a UC Santa Barbara sweatshirt.

But as the date approaches for California universities to let seniors know if they have done enough to be accepted (or lucky enough, which it must come down to, when over  100,000 freshmen apply to go to your school), I realized my own anxiety for my daughter isn’t really about what school she’ll get into.

It’s about dying to know where she’ll end up living, possibly for the rest of her life.

Yes, through the fall application season there was hard focus on what my daughter’s next academic chapter would look like. As I proof-read her college essays and reviewed her applications for missed dotted “i’s” and crossed “t’s” the anxiety over what schools to apply to and who would see my senior for the asset to their community that she would undoubtedly be, was off the charts.

I think we both might have cried in relief that it was done and in angst over the achingly long time to find out where she would land.

Now that we are here in March, with a handful of state and out-of-state schools already throwing their doors open for her (which Dad likes to point out: “See? You’re going to college. Now chill.”), we apprehensively and excitedly await to hear from the schools my daughter has had her sights on from the beginning.

But in those quiet moments when I look beyond March, when my daughter knows what her choices are for higher education, I realized it isn’t about her being a Gaucho or a Bruin or a Bear.

For me, her mother, I just need to know where her new home will be.

My daughter will be leaving me. She will be going to San Diego or Santa Barbara, or LA or Berkeley. I need to know how long it will take me to get to her. I need to know what I’ll need to do to get her home for visits. I need to start checking the cost of airfare.

And I need to start accepting that wherever she lands, there is a great possibility that it will become her new home, possibly forever.

Because that’s the truth about going off to college. There are 3 likely reasons your kid will never come back:

  1. They meet a significant other from that area or who wants to stay in that area.
  2. They find jobs and make connections in that area.
  3. They fall in love with that area and put down roots.

I know. All three happened to me. I never went back to the Bay Area. Sacramento has now been my home since I was 19. And Sac State wasn’t my dream school. Honestly, it was pretty low to the bottom.

So there in itself is another sage and wise life lesson as we wait through these anxious days of March: Your life isn’t over if you don’t get into your top choice schools. You get out of it what you put into it, so whatever school wants you, love it back. You might be surprised when you realize that it wasn’t sunny, beachy San Diego you thought you would call home, but that dark-horse Sacramento that for nearly 30 years has given you a pretty great life.

And will always be my son and daughter’s home away from their new homes.


#AlmostEmptyNesting  #CollegeAcceptanceAnxiety  #HomeIsWhereTheHeartIs


  1. Janine Caldwell says:

    Awesome post and very astute. Holly has now lived in Santa Barbara for over 30 years and now my parents live there. Good luck to Whitney!

    • kellimwheeler says:

      Thanks Janine! Holly is one of the few people I know of who could afford to live in Santa Barbara after they got their degree. I know Whitney would love to stay down there and I’m hoping there are more job opportunities these days. Your parents help prove my point – they first moved to Arizona to be near you and now they’ve moved near your sister, which just happens to be in CA. Glad Gavin is staying in-state for you!

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