The students are back from holiday. Sidewalks teem and there is traffic at the stoplight again.
Working on the campus where I went to college can sometimes produce the illusion I am still in college. But driving by the apartments yesterday was a brazen reminder that I am not, in fact, still a student.
I saw the balcony where I lived my senior year and suddenly many macaroni dinners flooded back to me. Late night, over-sized cups of coffee, poring over my computer screen. Dirty bathrooms and cafeteria food. All those YouTube videos.
There were other things too. I made my best friends in college. I played on the softball team. I did really good in school.
I also attended too many parties, had a few toxic relationships, and lacked all understanding of my inner being. I laughed a lot, but I cried a lot too. I fought uncomfortable changes back at home. I tried willfully to discover my one, true purpose and just studied English instead.
Turmoil and change colored the college experience; breaking out of comfort zones and always, always trying to measure up. Mountains of hard work on pebbles of sleep.
Well, it irks me the way people describe college and, more specifically, the way they implant false expectations about it. Tell me you haven’t heard that “college is the best time of your life.”
What sad person said that first.
To start with, I was still lost, insecure, discontent, ignorant, mean, insensitive, and actually believed that advances from men were signs of affection.
Yes, certainly, there is much beauty and wonder and discovery in college. There is a lot to be learned from some very outstanding people with PhDs. But on graduation day, I hate to think we’ve signed off on the best times of our lives. What, then, would the good life really be?
Would we not, in that case, concede that a college lifestyle accurately represents the best there is of living? No home or stability or children or rest. No snugly little kittens to care for, no committed partner to cook with.
Of course, we all value different things. We’ve all lived somewhere else on the spectrum of university experiences.
But for me. I much prefer to think of college as my spring board. A time in life to establish where I stand. To wade through the waist high swamp of what everyone else wants. To finally exercise some real autonomy. And in the end, to jump head long into the life I’ve been preparing for, dreaming of, hoping and waiting most patiently to create.
I imagine the best of life always yet to come, riding the back of maturity packed with our ever-deepening relationships on the thankful climb toward self-actualization.
It’s hard to look back on life at such a green age. Ten years ago I was barely brinking my teens. I remember sitting down my parents before my thirteenth birthday and explaining to them that some important things were about to change.
“You know, I am going to be thirteen soon. You will have to let me start doing more things. Like at the high school football games, you know how all the kids go over on the other side of the baseball field to play. Well, when I’m thirteen, I will be old enough to go over there too,” I said.
The other side of the baseball field was poorly lit and boasted a book-length list of first kisses. But that’s where I was a decade ago. Hoping to play flashlight tag and roll in the grass with an over-hormonal boy wearing Abercrombie & Fitch.
College waits at the end of our adolescent angst like a beacon, beckoning us out of our pot-smoking lairs with the promise of something greater. I’m hard work, He says. But I’m also the maker of dreams. I am independence and creative license. The drawing table of your ambition.
Campus is unusually warm for January. The kids are wearing t-shirts and playing Frisbee golf.
I hope they’re having fun. I hope they know much, much more is to come.