The college conundrum

 “open road” is 11x14, Japanese watercolor and sumi ink on paper. It is available as a graduation card reading “time to soar” and another version reading “Happy Father’s Day.” © Annette Makino 2017

“open road” is 11x14, Japanese watercolor and sumi ink on paper. It is available as a graduation card reading “time to soar” and another version reading “Happy Father’s Day.” © Annette Makino 2017

My husband Paul and I recently took a road trip through Oregon and Washington to visit potential colleges with our son Gabriel, a junior in high school. We gleaned what we could from the blur of campus tours, info sessions, and landscaped grounds dotted with blossoming cherry trees.

Gabriel talked with current students, joined the discussion in an English class, played tennis at a team practice, and tried the cafeteria food. (It’s come a long way since the mushy turkey tetrazzini of my freshman year!)

As a brilliant student and captain of his high school tennis team, he will have many options open to him. In some ways, that makes this pivotal life choice even harder. And the decision seems like a big responsibility for someone who has trouble remembering to bring his jacket home!

snow leopard
a brief sighting
of our teen

In any case, the most important aspects of a college experience aren’t quantifiable, like the student-to-faculty ratio or the number of Nobel Prize-winning professors. Rather, they are intangibles such as who you become over those four years, the lasting friendships you make and the foundation you build for the rest of your life. 

 View from the trenches: a campus tour of Reed College in Portland.

View from the trenches: a campus tour of Reed College in Portland.

As a curious nine-year old, Gabriel introduced me to the possibility of infinite parallel universes. (See my 2012 blog post, Parallel Universes.) So in this world he will eventually choose one school, but I like to think that all the other options are playing out in other universes, each with infinite variations. Somehow that takes the pressure off!

And then there is the experience of our daughter Maya. After touring a dozen colleges in five states, applying to eight, negotiating financial aid and scholarship offers, and much noisy agonizing, she finally settled on the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. We breathed a collective sigh of relief that the long search was over. Or so we thought . . .

ring around the moon—
from two states away
the catch in her voice

In a plot twist, after two extremely wet and cold winters there, last summer Maya opted to transfer to Humboldt State and live at home. Though HSU may not have the cachet of a private school, it is strong in her chosen field of art education. And here she enjoys a semi-private apartment, home-cooked meals, and the stunning natural beauty of Humboldt County. 

As surprised as we all were by this turn of events, she is much happier here. We love having our lively and affectionate daughter around again—and her tuition is a fraction of what we were paying!

It goes to show that you can do tons of research and make the best decision with the information you have, but no one can predict how life will unspool. I take comfort in the fact that Gabriel is a wise and perceptive young man, so I know he will make sound choices for college and beyond.

As for me, my Stanford degree in international relations prepared me well for my first career in international development. For my unexpected second career as a working artist, not so much. The five(!) economics classes I endured were chock full of theory. But other than that bit about supply and demand, they were useless on the topic of running a small business! 

Who knows what discoveries await my children in college, and which universes they will go on to explore? Although part of me would like to keep them home forever, I’m also excited to see how their futures will unfold.

open road
how the red-tailed hawk
embraces the wind

 It was still winter at Crater Lake, Oregon, where we stopped on our college road trip.

It was still winter at Crater Lake, Oregon, where we stopped on our college road trip.

Makino Studios

New Cards for Moms, Dads and Grads: I have designed six new cards for Mother’s Day (May 13), Father’s Day (June 17) and graduation, plus birthdays. You can find them all in the Cards section.

ukiaHaiku Festival: The ukiaHaiku Festival takes place this Sunday, April 29, at the Civic Center in Ukiah, California. Awards at 2 p.m., reception and refreshments at 3 p.m. I will read a winning haiku and have cards and prints for sale.

Open Studios: I will join artists Tina Gleave, Jennifer Rand, Amy Fowler and Araya Shon at the Samoa Women’s Club in Samoa, California for Weekend 1 of North Coast Open Studios, June 2-3. This is the 20th anniversary of this fun, free annual event, when more than a hundred Humboldt County artists open their studios to the public.

“snow leopard” was first published in Modern Haiku, Issue 49.1, Winter-Spring 2018

“ring around the moon” was first published in Modern Haiku, Issue 48.2, Summer 2017