College? It’s The Best Years Of Your Life, Right?

Robert S. Donovan
Robert S. Donovan

I realized the other day that the reason I had been so anxious about graduating was because of the amount of pressure that’s placed on the college experience. These years should apparently be ‘the best ones of your life’, and so something must be wrong with you if you don’t always feel this way. The world sometimes seems to be in unanimous agreement that life doesn’t get much better than when you’re a student.

So imagine the feeling when you don’t always feel like you’re ‘living it up’, that you somehow managed to miss the queue that led the way to the endless 4 year party. The hysteria leading up to what is soon to be your college years makes little mention of the days where you will inevitably find yourself bored senseless writing an essay about that dude you couldn’t care less about, revising so you can regurgitate dates, flicking aimlessly through the TV because no plans have actually been made for tonight.

You are TOLD that your college years WILL BE, UNDER NO UNCERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES, your best years, making very little space for anything else to even dare happen. Apparently, if you aren’t crystallizing every opportunity that comes your way, then shame on you. It’s an odd notion, to expect greatness from years that are yet to be.

I feel that I must stress that I am someone who currently, albeit ON THE WHOLE, loves being a student. I am having a pretty swell time. It’s just all the hysteria that gets on my nerves, all of the buildup.

For some people, who will be fortunate enough to reflect on their lives at the grand old age of 80, perhaps yes, college days were indeed the best days of their lives. For others it will be simply be a prelude to greater things, things that will be attained during work, bills, and other words that fill many of us with unfounded agitation. No one pays heed to the idea that one day, while we’re at home working out our finances or planning an outfit for the next day at the office, we may smile inwardly at the sudden realization that we really do like ourselves, and our pleased with how far we’ve come. Maybe we’ll come across doses of self-respect that we could have only dreamed of in freshman year, when that boy said that thing to that other boy about that thing we also didn’t like about our own face.

Being a current student, there are times when I would unequivocally, undeniably support the idea that it’s all just swell and brilliant. I can also imagine it feeling pretty brilliant being a wife, heck, maybe even a mum. Bills, harder work, longer hours, gasp, maybe a dose of responsibility may be chucked in for good measure, but alongside this, we could arrive at a calmer sense of happiness that this time possesses greater longevity. It seems pretty general to assume that these years will conjure similar feelings within every individual that experiences them. Some will truly find themselves during these four years, for others, not so much. For these other people, the ones who may feel like they missed out, they may gather all of that wisdom and insight during their 27th year of living, when they’ve had a particularly hard or brilliant year, a year where they were not told it would/should be good or bad, but was one of them nonetheless.

Being a student can be great. Usually when I spend the night talking to a guy I think is simply gorgeous, hanging out with awesome people, basking in the joy of soaking up each other’s awesomeness (yes, I did just paraphrase Mean Girls), life doesn’t seem to get much better. Then again, there are times when I’d be more inclined not to agree, probably because for whatever reason it didn’t work out with this guy, and I’m left blaming myself as I go over every detail with a fine-tooth comb, before crying myself to sleep and feeling like utter shit for the next couple of months. When you look back on college years, nostalgia chokes the more realistic memories of times when you went through crippling self-consciousness, when you felt fat, felt ugly, felt positively sick over that mid-term that you haven’t revised for, felt home-sick, felt rejected by friends who hadn’t invited you out to that thing they were supposed to invite you out to.

A lot of us start college, with a big fat question mark stuck on our backs, trying to navigate our way through this endless maze of sudden freedom. By the time your three or four years are drawing to a close, too many people are seeing it as doomsday, rather than an opportunity to look back and to realize that actually, that question mark has diminished, even if it’s ever so slightly. We walk that little bit more confidently, and we hopefully care that little bit less about things we always knew, deep down, we should have probably cared less about in the first place. But those are what the lessons are for; you live and you learn.

It made me laugh when I realized that I’ve been seeing the ‘other world’ as an evil vortex, waiting to suck me out of this ‘bubble’ I’m apparently living in. But I watch my brother in this world, my mother in this world, and they’re not doing too badly. My brother, who decided not to go to university, has finally landed himself a full-time job in a career he’s actually excited for. Unlike me, he never had to deal with the looming anxiety that seems to eventually befall most undergraduates. Maybe he felt the sting of having no set structure from external forces to begin with, but then he simply got on with it. There’s only so long you can fester in the drama of something coming to an end. You ever think sometimes something might be a big deal to you purely because of how much other people are going on about it? If no one said anything about the ‘perils’ of graduating, maybe we’d all just do it without the song and dance that everyone attaches to it. Graduating is good – it signals a progress as well as a pretty big achievement. Yet more of us seem to want to hide beneath the hat, rather than throw it up high in the air, ready to embrace the now unfamiliar.

Rather than meeting this challenge head on and, more importantly, feeling equipped to do so, many people instead shirk away from all responsibility. It makes you wonder if college would retain the glamour it has managed to gather, if it could indeed last forever.

The braces are taken off, and you get to see, maybe for the first time ever, how well you can walk on your own. Rather than pining after school days, see them off with a thankful salute, and simply carry on. Maybe the following four years will be your best yet, maybe they won’t, but either way – you got this. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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