As people age, we notice that time appears to speed up and even the most pivotal moments flash by in the blink of an eye. This does not happen when we are younger, when all we want to do is be on our own, do our own thing, find our own way. You were 18 months old when I started working at Neumann. On occasion I would bring you with me and on quiet days let you run up and down the hallway where my office was on the second floor of Bachmann. Please slow down, I would tell you, all while you giggled defiantly. You and your brothers called Neumann “mommy’s school “and the thought of you one day choosing to be a Knight seemed light years away.
It’s been 20 years since then. I look at you now and I realize I did not see the passage of time. I see your face and to me you’re still my little blonde, pig-tailed shadow who couldn’t wait to be a big girl at “mommy’s school”. Please slow down, I would tell you. There’s plenty of time. But you wanted what you wanted, when you wanted it. Impulsive, determined, feisty and energetic, I knew you needed to channel your fiery spirit and together we chose sports as that outlet. Starting with tee ball, then softball, and later field hockey, it became obvious that athletics would be forever known as your first love. You were such a delight to watch, and those who coached you in your early years hated to see you move up to a higher level. Please slow down, they’d say, give us one more year! Watching your abilities blossom and grow was fascinating, and I was there at every game unable to take my eyes off you as you played the sports you loved. Time was marching on, and I began struggling to keep up with its ever-changing winds.
High school field hockey was a pivotal experience in your life. Switching to a new school district in a different state in 9th grade had its difficulties, but you found your home on the turf. You learned that athletics is a preparation for life and what you learn from being on a team are invaluable lessons. The things your coaches taught you about life slowly began making sense. You came alive playing the sports you loved, and for the first time I began to imagine what you choosing Neumann would be like…for both of us. There was plenty of time for that, but I still wanted to tell you to please slow down.
Colleen, when you ultimately chose Neumann University for your future alma mater, like your father and I before you, words could not express my joy. Most parents send their children off to college and hope they occasionally remember to call home, but I was going to have the opportunity to see you every day. I would have a front row seat to your social life, scholastic progress, and athletic achievements. How blessed I have been and how lucky I feel to have witnessed your growth as an athlete, as a person, and as the woman I always knew you’d become. This has all been bittersweet as I knew our time together at Neumann would eventually come to an end, and you would join thousands of others as a proud alum. Change is inevitable, and children get older, I only wish you would please slow down!
Now, in what seems like the blink of an eye, you are lacing up your turf shoes for the final time. There have been plenty of tears and triumphs over these past four years. I have watched you endure struggles in ways no one understood. I’ve seen you be a champion for others while sacrificing your own well-being. I’ve witnessed you quietly live out Neumann’s core values even if others didn’t see your perspective. I’ve watched you celebrate when you scored goals and boost your teammates after a tough loss. I’ve seen the lessons being a college athlete has taught you start to unfold in the way you carry yourself. You’ve made wonderful friendships that will last a lifetime. You’ve been both greatly challenged and immensely fortunate. All this has culminated in what I hope has been the greatest adventure of your life.
Colleen, it is important that you understand the gravity of what I am about to tell you: you have changed the lives of others by just simply being in theirs. All the little things that made one day bleed into the next were really the big things. These things that seemed meaningless at time will become the your most significant memories. Years from now, you will not remember the wins and losses of each season, but the people that made this journey alongside you and made it meaningful. The teammates that picked you up when you were down and allowed you to do the same for them. The ones that taught you to see the positive in every situation. The ones who never let you live down your stupid mistakes, mainly because they made them with you, but also because they knew you could do better. And even the ones that you didn’t get along with 99% percent of the time all taught you invaluable lessons. It is all those people who have impacted your life, and whose life you have impacted. That is why, all these years, I told you to please slow down. Open your eyes and take it all in, because I never wanted you to miss a thing.
You will remember the coaches that pushed you and never let you give up because they saw your potential. You will remember all the times they yelled and made you run until you couldn’t walk the next day, testing your resolve to make you stronger. You’ll remember the times you were depended upon to be the leader I always knew you could be. But more than any of that, you will remember the opportunities they gave you to play this sport you love, the game that changed your life, the game that taught you more lessons about life, love, dedication, and loyalty than I ever could.
As you wrap up your senior season, play your heart out and leave knowing you’ve given it all you’ve got just one last time. Leave knowing that you are one of the lucky ones. Remember the love, the battle wounds, the laughs, the tears. Remember this feeling always and forever. Carry gratitude for it with you always. But more importantly, know that I am now and will always be your biggest fan. Know that I feel profoundly privileged to have shared this experience with you, something so unique and rare I will cherish forever. I hope I have sufficiently reinforced your wings and given you tools to spread them, no matter how much it hurts to watch you go. For once, I’m ready to tell you not to please slow down, but to soar ahead. You will always have a nest under my roof and take with you a piece of my heart. Of all the roles I have held during my time at Neumann University, “Colleen’s mom” will always be my favorite.
I love you always,