With my mother and one of my best friends at a going-away-to-college party for me. Summer 1992. Houston, Texas.

With my mother and one of my best friends at a going-away-to-college party for me. Summer 1992. Houston, Texas.

I went to college before the widespread advent of mobile phones, e-mail, and the Internet. And I went far away to college on purpose.

Other than counselors, upperclassmen, and professors, I had no one to guide me in my new city and the world of college—so different from Houston and high school.

I couldn't Google to figure things out. And without social media, text, and e-mail, it wasn't so easy to communicate with people back home. If I wanted to talk to my parents, I had to call and hope they were there. If they weren't, the answering machine took a message. They'd check the machine whenever they happened to get back—and I'd have to hope I was near my phone when they returned my call.

My grandmother sent me care packages via the USPS, and I would excitedly check the mailbox daily for letters from old friends.

I'd launched.

Case in point: Freshman year, I slid on ice into the back of a work truck. (Texas girls don't learn to drive on ice.) The truck was completely unscathed, and the driver needed to get somewhere on time, so he left. My little Mazda had a smushed hood and leaked green liquid.

I had no idea what green liquid meant. Could I drive it? Should I? Even if I could drive it, I needed to get it fixed. I'd never been in an accident before. What should I do?

From a payphone not too far away, I called my dad. Lucky, he was in his office.

Me: Dad! I got into a car accident!

Dad: Are you okay?

Me: Yes. But there's this liquid coming out, and I don't know whether I should drive it…. What do I do?

Dad: I'm glad you're okay. But I'm not there, Les. You're going to have to figure it out.

If I were a college student today, I would have taken a picture with my smart phone, texted it to my dad, called him from the scene, and gotten his take. Meantime, he would be on-line finding the nearest highly rated auto shop. His heart would be in the right place—who doesn't want to help his child?—but it wouldn't have been good for me.

I'm glad that's not how it happened. That situation—and so many other adventures of Leslie, out in the world—taught me that I can figure out pretty much anything. I'm pretty strong, pretty clever, and pretty resourceful. I can get through more than I ever would have thought. All by myself.

Powerful feeling, that. I wish that knowledge for everyone. We're all stronger and smarter than most of us realize. Find a way to discover this in yourself.

P.S.: Never call me "Les." Dad's the only one who can.