Monday, July 29, 2013

About College

One year ago, I was preparing -- frantically, by this point -- to move into my college dorm.
I'm writing this now, looking back over my first year, partly for myself and partly for any other scared soon-to-be college kids.

Disclosure: These are my opinions. They are my personal facts, which may not be the same as yours. These are also spoken as if you are at college, and if you want to be there.
What is college like? What was it like for me?

It would be my first (super) extended trip away from home. I wasn't going very far, and in fact, found myself a little annoyed that I would be only three hours away from the place where I went to high school, but I still had to like, pack. I was still moving in with a complete stranger, sharing a bathroom with 25 girls, and living on a floor with 70 people. (Coincidentally, my dorm building held about 600 students. My graduating class held about 380.)
Voila. That's, approximately, what I was living in.
In many ways, I was -- and am -- very lucky. First, I get to go to college. It's no surprise to any of us that the economy sucks, that student loans are vicious, and that not having a degree can make life painfully complicated. So, because of that that, I'm telling you this: 
Be happy, if you're at college, if you've graduated and be grateful. It's a privilege. Even if it's a school that would not normally decorate your dreams, it's a luxury. We are lucky. There is nothing more annoying than a college student who openly and loudly thinks their college is beneath them. Maybe the school isn't for you, and that's fine. Leave.
It's okay to transfer schools. 
I have several friends that have done so. If you don't like where you are, leave. If you don't want to pay money for the experience, don't. It's your life. It's your experience. Try not to be selfish, but also, look out for yourself. 
Which leads me to another thought --
Going to college with your friends from home? It's hard. It's . . . impossible, in a lot of ways, because you aren't the same people you used to be.
You may lose them. It will hurt. It will hurt in ways you never expected and ways that I can't really describe. You'll look at people that you've known for years and you won't recognize who they've become.
Worse, they won't recognize you. 
I'm so sorry for that. But you can't lose heart, dear freshman, because there is still a lot left to see, a lot left to do, and a lot of people to meet.
You may move into a room with a girl you don't exactly . . . get. She probably won't get you either. You can still stay up for hours and talk about nothing. You can still find things in common. 
You may eat so much chips and queso, so much cereal, so much pasta, that when you come home for Thanksgiving you make yourself pitifully ill, because your body doesn't know how to digest meat anymore. (But really, it may be safer that way. It may be worth the pain.)
You may spend too much money on coffee. If that is, indeed, a thing that's actually possible. 
You will curse the expensive textbooks. You will not understand something. You will understand others and wonder why you're bothering to pay for the class. You will stay up too late, possibly drink too much illegal substances, or at least, have to hold back the hair of someone who have definitely had too much.
If you're lucky, you will fight. You will fight about politics, feminism, friendship, travel, music, technology, love, lust, and caffeine addiction. Every fight -- thought not always necessary -- will teach you something. You will get involved in things that fuel your passions and teach you about passions you never knew you had.
Change your major. Change it again. Do it early, and do it until you think it's right, and try and do it before you reach your junior year.
You may get your heart broken. I hope you do, actually. It's good for you, in the end. It's a real and horrible feeling, but it can also make you better and stronger. 
You may get your heart broken by your best friends. You may look back at those moments months later, and you may see them coming weeks in advance, and every time you look for them, you feel like you're breaking again. I can't tell you if that makes you better and stronger, but I can tell you that it will make your stories stronger. 
You will find someone worth risking breaking your heart again. I can't tell you if they will or not, because -- well, I'm single. I'm not particularly romantic, and some have even called me jaded. (Ahem.) But when you look at your college dorm rooms, and you panic because they are small and dark and full of strange belongings that are not yours and may actually offend you, you are looking at a chance. An experience. 
Boys will drunkenly chase rabbits through the streets. Girls will try and climb the buildings in their high heels. The lounge will fill up with a bunch of entitled, pretentious students that are either there to watch the presidential debate or Beauty and the Beast. 
Talk to them. 
Be their friends. Or don't, if you're more of a Cinderella person. (In which case, you're a freak.)
This is about you, and your chances, and your life.
Pack your bags. Relish your bed. Hug your parents and pet your animals, because you'll wish in a few months that you would have done more of that. For the love of god, eat whatever good food you can.
And get ready for your adventure.