With all of Teen Spirit’s high school friends back in town on their winter breaks from college, it’s a good time to review how Smartmom’s boy is doing at Gap Year University.
So far, so good. He just completed his first semester, and Smartmom was pleased as punch that he received passing grades for working at a warehouse, practicing with his band, performing and writing a boatload of new songs.
Extra-curricular activities included spending time with friends who are still high school, going to shows in Bushwick, sleeping late into the day and eating breakfast at Daisy’s on Fifth Avenue.
In the upcoming semester, Teen Spirit is set to get a new job and to continue with his music. A road trip to Texas is planned with stops in Graceland and the SXSW music, film, and interactive conference and festival in Austin.
During his first semester at GYU, Teen Spirit has really matured. And it’s not just that fuzzy beard on his chin. He doesn’t seem quite so anti-authoritarian or defiant. He’s less James Dean and a little more Tom Waits or maybe David Byrne.
What a relief. He and his parents are getting along famously. He seems to adore his mother’s cooking, and he and Hepcat enjoy watching shows like “Dead Like Me” on Hulu and staying up late discussing random and useless information. Teen Spirit even seems to take an interest in his sister’s school work.
“Hey, are you doing your homework or are you IMing a friend?” he says to the Oh So Feisty One. “Get back to work!”
It’s funny to see Teen Spirit in that role since he was always the one IMing his friends instead of doing his homework. But he’s settled down a bit and wants to see his sister stay on the honor roll at her middle school.
Best of all, Teen Spirit seems to be gung ho about going to college next fall. In fact, in December, he and Hepcat visited the Columbia College of Chicago, an arts-oriented school in the center of the windy city. They took a three-hour tour and both concluded that the school might be a great place for Teen Spirit. They happened to get there on an extremely cold day when the temperature, was, like one degree. It was as if the city was saying, “Full Disclosure: I’m a frigid place.”
Apparently, a magazine photographer stopped Teen Spirit, who was wearing a cool hat, an antique leather aviator’s jacket and two sweaters, and wanted to take his picture for a street fashion feature.
“No thanks,” Teen Spirit told him. “I’m way too cold.”
So much for his big break as a Midwestern fashion model.
Despite the frigid temperatures, Teen Spirit was smitten with Chicago and enjoyed visiting with a friend who is studying music at Columbia and another friend who is attending the Art Institute of Chicago.
So everything is going according to plan. Smartmom is pleased that Teen Spirit has taken advantage of some time to grow up a little and get to know to himself — that’s what college is all about, isn’t it?
When Smartmom was in college, she knew a couple of kids who took a year off, which is what it used to be called. But it wasn’t nearly as popular back then as it is now. One friend spent the year on a kibbutz, and the other worked in the city. Both were eager to go to college at the end of their experimental year off.
It never occurred to Smartmom to take a year off. Never. She was eager to go to college and be on her own. She barely communicated with her parents that first year and can’t remember being homesick at all.
Well, she was a little freaked out when she met her roommate. Her name was Lisa Fink and she was a very outgoing girl from Long Island who liked to sing Jewish folk songs (loudly) and play the guitar.
Smartmom wasn’t sure they’d get along. She was shocked by the amount of stuff she brought. Everything plus the kitchen sink, including a toaster oven and a small refrigerator. Smartmom was a bit of a minimalist back then and hardly had any belongings. Truth is, it was pretty cool to have all that stuff in the room. Lisa turned out to be a lovely person, and while they never became best friends, they were good roommates who were compatible and respectful of each other.
When Smartmom got to freshman orientation, she found herself turned off by the freshmen who seemed to be bouncing off the walls during their first few weeks way from home. Beer. Parties. Sex. Crazy behavior was par for the course.
Smartmom was too sophisticated for any of that. Or at least she thought she was. She’d been living the fast and fun life at her Upper West Side High School and didn’t feel the need to go crazy during her first few weeks in college. Been there done that. But she adjusted to college life and actually made some lifelong friends those first few weeks.
But Teen Spirit is different. He’s actually something of a homebody these days as he enjoys spending time at home with his guitar, composing new songs. He has a great deal of independence because Smartmom and Hepcat have decided not to keep track of his whereabouts.
This isn’t high school anymore and he’s basically allowed to do what he wants. One night he came home late from a party. Hepcat and Smartmom woke up and heard him run to the bathroom to throw up.
“Are you OK?” Smartmom called from her bed.
“I’m fine,” he said. “Just had a little too much to drink. Go back to bed.”
So that’s the kind of thing that goes on at Gap Year University. It’s college with your parents in the room next door.
Teen Spirit is growing out of life on Third Street, and he needs a life of his own that isn’t next door to his parents bedroom. With each passing week, he’s more and more ready for the college life. It’s a natural rite of passage, and Smartmom is pretty sure that by next fall, Teen Spirit, Smartmom and Hepcat will be ready to pack up a warm down coat and send Teen Spirit off to Chicago.
Don’t forget to write!