We got to Hartford late and fell into the apartment of my cousin's son (my 2nd cousin ...?), a 2nd year law student at UConn. We're a tiny, close-knit family and Nathaniel's a sweetheart -- gave us his bedroom in the old character-filled (plus dozens of empty booze bottled decorating the mantle) duplex he shares with two 3rd years. Maddy went to sleep, of course. And I hung out on the couch eavesdropping into the lives of 20-something law students scheming about internships, school loan debt, job prospects, and the relative skill of their professors. Being middle-aged, middle-career, I could whimsically enjoy how focused, articulate, and powerful these three seem to be. Having confidence, the right blend of professional excitement & angst, and your shit together makes for fun viewing. Especially since Nathaniel has really good perspective about how he does & doesn't want his life to unfold.
Next day we hit U Hartford, wandering around the 70's inspired campus during the tumult of the semester's beginning. The Hart Center dance department is housed in a gorgeous, new off-campus performing arts center (a renovated Chrysler dealership that seems to have been a highly touted urban renewal project.) The building & program offer beautiful rehearsal and performance space, a children's dance school, a cafe ... and an intense attitude. The chair was incredibly gracious since we arrived unannounced, without an appointment the first week of classes. And he has a lots to show-off.
But they felt competitive in all the wrong ways. Tremendous accomplishment among the faculty and I'm certain the students were exceptional dancers. But everything required auditions, and a subtle frenzied cut-throat air hung thick. I remembered that old movie Turning Point -- competition that ruins relationships, cortisol levels, and the balls of your feet.
Maddy liked the facilities but not so into the feel of the place, although she couldn't articulate why. I thought no fucking way -- my child, blissfully, hasn't been exposed to this yet and she ain't starting as a college freshman. She's intense & driven enough on her own without external help. She'd either get sucked into mindless stress, or, more likely, she'd learn to hate dance. My perpetual philosophy is don't wait to find the peace a good midlife crisis offers. Grab hold of mindful joy early -- age 17 perhaps -- even if it means you never jump on Achievement's treadmill and must ignore the cacophony of carnival barkers seducing you toward Reality. The message to my daughter? Reality is overrated, and you're never too young to be truly happy. Which usually requires lacing achievement with joy.
Later Nathaniel & I got Maddy take-out while she dozed on the couch watching Grey's Anatomy episodes. I was eternally grateful we could cross a school off the list.
(Interesting ... before posting this I received notes from friends/readers suggesting Maddy look at the Hart School. Maybe my initial perceptions were off. Or maybe I've lived in la-la land so long I can't remember what the regular ol' world's like.)