We go to college for a lot of reasons. To get away from home, to move out, to play college football, to follow our friends, to get a fresh start, to pave the way for that American dream future that’s been flashed over our eyes since day one…
Whenever, and wherever we go, we go with the assurance that we will learn “a lot.” We will learn about math and science and art and religion and literature and politics and philosophy and so much more that we’ll find one, if not two or three, subjects that we really truly love, and we’ll dedicate our entire collegiate career (and possibly thousands in tuition dollars) towards becoming an “expert” in the field.
As a science major, I can tell you if a heavier or lighter object will hit the ground first when dropped from the same height. I can tell you the exact malfunction in our genes that causes cancer in the majority of breast cancer patients. I can diagram an animal or plant cell for you, complete with a description of every item. I can tell you what happens when you expose certain molecules to ultraviolet light. I can tell you this and that and all these things no one really cares about unless you’re a physicist or a biologist or a chemist or a regular nerd, whatever. The reality is, this information is useless to me at this stage of my life.
Yes, I have plans to go to graduate school and further my studies in medicine. Yes, that probably makes the part about breast cancer important, and yes, I probably learned a lot of other things that are very important. However, to me, on a personal level, I have no reason for this knowledge besides establishing a career.
College teaches you more than the difference between mitochondria and chloroplasts or how to integrate a function. I have a relative who asks me, every time I see him, what I’ve learned lately, and every time I blank. I know a lot of things from school, but not much a retired real estate broker would really care about. I’ve learned a lot of real world lessons, but not a lot that seems appropriate to share with your seventy-something-year-old grandfather. But, despite my eternal “I don’t know” answer to his question, in my head I always know the important things life has taught me.
1. Life’s not fair.
Period. I don’t know if there’s a higher being who likes to screw with us or if it’s just that bad things happen to good people, but it happens. The sooner you learn to deal with it, the healthier your mind will be. For more information, refer to number two.
2. Fixating on the things you can’t change will only drive you to insanity.
Life gets much more entertaining when you learn to stop focusing in on all the things that you can’t change or can’t fix. The milk is spilt? Damn. That sucks. Go buy more milk and move on. No more money for milk because you’re a broke college student? Go steal some from the cafeteria. You paid for the meal plan anyway. The reality is that almost all problems can be solved with a little ingenuity, and even when they can’t (which does happen and yes, it does suck), you can’t get stuck on them. Life moves by a million miles per hour while you’re compulsively thinking about that D you got on your Spanish test. Oops. Can’t change it. Go study more and see what happens in the future – it’s not as if you can control it.
3. You cannot control every aspect of your future.
In reference to number two, you should also know with that tidbit of advice, you can’t change everything, and you can’t control everything. You can study your ass off and still make less than an A. You can bend over backwards and still not get a promotion, only to watch it get handed off to someone less qualified. Refer again to number one: life’s not fair. You can’t stop it. It sucks. Refer to number two and move on. If it’s not working, there’s probably some divine intervention, and what’s meant to be will be, whether you get the A or the job or not.
4. Getting drunk/high/naked/desperate will not solve your problems for more than eight hours, max (then the vomiting/hangover/brain cell death starts)
Yes. Get drunk to deal with your breakup. Your ex won’t think of it as your regretful actions, fueled by heartbreak. (Sarcasm). Depressants, stimulants, and sex are not cure-alls for our bad situations. Feeling lonely? Go visit a nursing home – you’ll feel like you have a million friends afterwards, whether it’s from sympathy for the residents or all the new grandmas you just inherited. Wanna blow off steam? I’m the last person to condemn a few drinks, but drinking yourself to sickness because your boss is a dick will not make work any easier the next morning (if the job sucks sober, imagine it with a hangover). Proactivity is the only real cure, and while it can be tedious, it typically leads to a much happier resolution.
5. There will always be mean/bad/lousy people.
Bake them cookies, ask them out to dinner, take them on a dream vacation, and these people will still continue to be one-hundred percent assholes. You cannot change them, just like how you can’t change your past. You can still be nice and feel good about yourself for being the bigger person, but it doesn’t matter. They will always be the bully/jerk/terrible person until they decide to change it for themselves, whether it be because they have no friends or because they had a major Christmas Carol moment, complete with the three malevolent spirits.
6. Life gets better, in the tiny little moments.
It really does, one day at a time, whether it be from hard work or a little break you are coincidentally gifted with in every few darkest hours.
I may not always share these answers with my grandfather, but if someone asked me what I really learned at college and actually wanted the legitimate answer, this is probably what I’d tell them. And in person, I’d get the benefit of projecting my sarcasm all over the board.
Bottom line, life sucks, and life’s great. It all depends whether your make the glass half full or half empty.