The Campus Life

It takes a lot of energy to go off to college.

Textbooks? Check. Suitcases unpacked? Check. A near-lifetime supply of microwavable ramen noodles and granola bars, stored under the incoming freshman’s high-rise dorm room bed? Check.

Danny’s mom ran through her list to make sure there wasn’t anything they forgot back at home, while his dad triple-checked that all the appliances were properly plugged in and operating. Welcome to the world of higher learning.

Going off to college – often deposited there by proud and hopeful parents – is one of life’s bigger segues. It’s a far-from-seamless transition from youth to young adulthood, unfolding with new responsibilities and freedoms. Mostly unseen, natural gas and oil help power and support the transition.

They had loaded up Danny’s car and his dad’s truck late last night and made the six-hour drive to campus early this morning. When Danny looked at the pile of packed cardboard boxes and plastic bags filled with everything from essentials to knick-knacks, he wasn’t sure it was all going to make it. It would be a tight fit, for sure – sharing a space the size of his childhood room for the next year with his best friend, Rick.

Somehow, magically almost, they unpacked everything – clothes, books, shoes, supplies, foodstuffs – and stored them in his closet or under his bed. His mom worked a miracle and organized it all like an Army quartermaster. He knew it was her way of coping with the jolt of her firstborn moving out of the house and becoming a man.

Rick already finished unpacking his stuff and was downstairs in the dormitory’s game room waiting, so they could explore the campus together. They were both completely stoked about the idea of college sports, the freedom to eat what they wanted when they wanted and the opportunity to meet so many new people.

With a mumbled, “You guys can head out now,” and some anxious foot-tapping, Danny’s folks finally accepted the fact that there was nothing left for them to do there. He helped his dad off the floor where he had been inspecting the new mini-fridge from his grandparents and motioned toward the door.

The three of them walked through the gaggle of parents and fresh-faced college students who swarmed the dorm hallways, narrowly avoiding a few near-collisions with parents, laden like porters with boxes stacked high enough to cover their faces.

Once outside, Danny practically dragged his parents to the truck – he couldn’t wait any longer to be independent and free to call the shots in his life. When they got to the truck, his mother dissolved into tears and enveloped him in a chest-crushing hug – trapping his arms at his sides. His dad joined the hug-fest. Danny did everything he could to hide the mortification.

About 20 million students will attend U.S. colleges and universities this fall – the college life powered and supported by energy.

Students spend nearly $26 billion on books and supplies – often produced using natural gas and oil.

The world (college students included) eats 100 billion servings of instant ramen noodles each year, prepared and packaged with the help of natural gas and oil.

When they finally let go, he gave his mom a peck on the cheek and his dad a pat on the back and told them goodbye. He started back to the dorm to meet up with Rick, not bothering to look back at his parents. Free at last.

Before he and Rick went exploring, he trotted back up to his new room to grab his favorite hat – the Boston Red Sox cap he had owned since he was 13. On his way out of the room, he noticed something scrawled in black marker on the whiteboard above his desk. It was a note from his parents that said:

“Danny, we want you to know how proud we are of you. You have become the man we always hoped you would be. You’ll do great here, and remember, we’re only a phone call away. Love, Mom and Dad.”

The note completely surprised him. He hadn’t seen either of his parents write it, but then again, he was so busy ushering them out the door he wouldn’t have noticed. It’s easy to take the ones you love most for granted – and in an instant he realized he’d done just that with his mom and dad. They drove all the way to school, helped him move his belongings and even put the extra time in to make sure his things were unpacked. And he never thanked them.

He pulled out his phone and quickly dialed his mom’s number.

“Hi honey!” she said, rapid-firing the questions: “Is everything alright? Did you lose your wallet? Did you forget something?”

“Yeah, mom, I forgot something,” he replied. “I forgot to tell you thank you, and that I love you guys.”

For a second it was quiet, then the sound of muffled sniffles before his mom, her voice breaking, said, “We love you, too. Now go have fun with Rick and we can chat later.”

He said goodbye and tapped the phone to end the call. Now, with the love and support of his parents fresh in his mind, he had the energy and motivation to take on the world.

Natural gas and oil: Powering the moments that matter.