I recently spent a week at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, in South Africa, teaching my soon-to-be first graduating class of 12th-grade girls everything I wish someone had told me before I graduated.
We talked about how the world really works...how not to take those credit card offers(!)...how to live within your means—even when your means are zilch...how to discover your own truth, then hold on and not let it slip away.
How every experience and encounter, positive and negative, has the potential to contribute to your personal development...how there's no such thing as failure—just God pointing you in a new direction.
We talked about online dating, and social networking, and what to do when friends betray you, and how to find the flow of your own life so that you can move with it instead of against it.
At the end of our weeklong session, I was exhausted and exhilarated from the experience of sharing what I know for sure with these young souls ready to embrace the adventure of college. Most of the OWLA girls will be the first in their families to embark on this adventure.
Of course they're nervous, and anxious, and feeling the hopeful expectancy all entering freshman feel.
What I know for sure: The trajectory of these girls' lives changed when they came to the school. I feel like a mama bird with 72 nestlings getting ready to spread their wings.
And even if I've given the girls a chance they might not otherwise have had, I've received so much more: the unparalleled joy of watching each of them take flight.
In our last class together, I read them one of my favorite poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay: "Soar, eat ether, see what has never been seen; depart, be lost, / But climb."