I remember around high school graduation when people casually mentioned that my college years would be the “best years of my life.” That I should be excited; that college would be by far the most exciting part of my life.
Scribbled beneath hallmark wishes of Congratulations! You did it! on my grad cards were handwritten cursive words sprawled out into: “Make the most of your college days, these are the best days of your life.” Etc. Etc. Etc. At the time, I didn’t think too much of it. I was excited, I was ready for a new adventure. I appreciated the cards, hugged relatives good bye, and cheered on friends as they packed their rooms up in cardboard boxes, counting down the days until they embarked on their adventures to their new schools.
I didn’t love college. In fact, a lot of the time, I didn’t even like college. And yet, these were the best years of my life?
I’d have to disagree. I ended up transferring to a different school, one I had never even considered, just because I needed a change. Even deciding to transfer was tough – why wasn’t I loving school? Was I wasting these “life changing” years? Was I just going to be a caterpillar staying in its cocoon for eternity?
But I do think that although I struggled some somewhat grim battles through college, I think today I am much more myself than I ever was then. Although college wasn’t my favorite, I still changed a lot, and basically grew up. I don’t mean this in a philosophical, deep, intense way. I mean this in that really so many things happened, that I had no choice but to change. And in the long run, I can finally say, now that I’m out on the other time, I really do have a lot to thank college for. And if I hadn’t gone? I never would have met some of my best friends in the world. I never would have learned how to rely on myself, or how to write a 20 page paper in APA style. I guess I could say with confidence that I did grow into myself, but it wasn’t easy, and 3 of the 4 years were definitely not the best days of my life.
But even now – those same people who scribbled the notes in my cards, or told me all of the wonderful, beautiful moments that college would have in store for me – now tell me that “the best years are yet to come.” What? I thought they were over?
They tell me that once college is done that dirty word, responsibility, takes over your life.
But why do I scroll through inspirational quotes and mantras on Instagram and twitter claiming that the best years are STILL yet to come? Are we always just waiting for these best years? Or are they already done? Are the best times over, or am I supposed to wait patiently for them?
You would think that someone saying the best years are yet to come would make me happy, it would make me excited. But it makes me nervous, anxious. Because why do we have to keep holding out for the best years? I want to be able to just appreciate where I am now, without holding my life to some sort of standards, or waiting it out for something better. I don’t want to keep thinking about my life in terms of only waiting or passing by the good times.
I think that each year holds some wonderful times, and some very low times. And I think this is okay.
There are parts of each stage of our life that may affect our future. In college we may meet the significant other that we wind up marrying, or we may date someone all 4 years then realize it was just a college relationship, it worked while we were there, but now it’s just an illusion. What about when people die? When someone we love dies, how can the best days of life still be ahead of us? How can we still have these beautiful lives when an essential part of our life, of our heart, is missing? How can the best years still come without them?
This is why I firmly believe that it is up to us to just always make the most of what we have. You don’t have to compare different parts of your life to the past or the future, you can just allow these moments to be; allow time to be. You just have to realize and exclaim with joy, when things are wonderful, and you have to understand and keep your head up high when they are not so wonderful. It’s not really a timeline. We don’t have a set chunk of time that needs to be our best time. We don’t have to hold different experiences to these societal standards. We can value our time for what it is, and see the good in situations, while not panicking when things don’t go as planned.
Sure, maybe you’re in college now, or you are out of college, and you do associate these college years with the most carefree, spectacular, days of your life. Maybe you went out every night, partied all the time, spent most of your years drunk, narrowly made it through your classes, and loved every single second of it. Maybe this was your version of perfect. This was happiness. Or, maybe you studied 24/7, were a member of academic clubs and honor societies, aced college with a 4.0, and loved college deep down to the roots! But you know what? Maybe you were neither of these. Or maybe you lingered somewhere in between, and you, too, loved college. Or maybe you were neither of these and you hated college with a passion.
Either way, you don’t need to overanalyze it, you don’t need to worry about it. If you loved it, that’s seriously wonderful! You will have more experiences that you love. And if you did just tolerate it? Or, if college really wasn’t for you? You too will still have times now and in the future that you love. You see, we each have our phases of life that have their ups and downs, their highs and lows. Loving or hating one part of life doesn’t create some sort of destiny or fate with regards to the rest of your life.
Think about it. Even now, out of college, I get these mixed messages. Some people claim being in your low/mid-twenties means not having a care in the world, coming hungover to work, being free, are the new “best days of your life.” But then other people panicked when college ended, and swore that coming into the “real world” just means becoming a responsible adult (said with a shudder and that slight look of disgust). These panicked people inform you that adulting, aka getting a full time job, buying groceries, paying bills, and being responsible (this definition is up to you), is the enemy. That you should miss college as now life is going to suck. HELP. Are the glory days all over? At 21 years old? At 25 years old? But how I see it?
You can “adult” however you want. You’re young. You’re still free to do whatever you please.
Maybe you don’t work full time, or regular hours. Maybe you live with your parents. Maybe you have no idea what you’re doing, and you have no idea what career path you want to pursue. Maybe you’re engaged. Maybe you’re single. Maybe you’re somewhere in between. Relax. You don’t have to label these years. You don’t have to see them as the “best years.” The “best years” are your entire life… they just happen to fade in and out over time.
SO: It’s okay if your college days weren’t the best days of your life. But it’s also okay if they were (THUS FAR) the best years of your life. This doesn’t mean the best times are over, it just means one of the great parts of your life is through, but many, many more are yet to come. We will have an infinite number of best days. So just keep your eyes open, and don’t’ be overwhelmed if you’re not loving what you’re “supposed” to love.
We all blossom and bloom at different times. And moreover, we all blossom and bloom over and over again…so you have many more chances to have your best years. And maybe all of them will be great, you never know. So just enjoy where you are at now, or learn from it, and remember that the golden glorious times will roll back around soon.