5 Minute Read.
Just like that.
College: That place we all grow up imagining. That magical place that feels so far away, but in reality, comes so much quicker than expected. And in the 4 years we attend, it’s almost as if time speeds up far beyond what we were ready for.
4 years ago today, I was attending my senior prom. It feels like yesterday. I still remember the feeling of putting on, in my opinion, the most beautiful prom dress I had ever seen. I can still feel the weight of the gown on my body, and I can still remember the excitement that swirled around the entire day and night. Very vividly.
And this morning, as I pulled my cap and gown out of it’s plastic wrapper and hung it in my room, I was immediately hit with an overwhelming sense of sadness, excitement, fear, happiness, overwhelm, accomplishment, and regret. A combination of emotions that took over my body and sent tears to my eyes.
Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was a senior in high school?
I think this is a thought that all college seniors whisper to themselves. Ask anyone who is graduating, and the first thing they’ll say is “time flew by”. And as I sit here, in a popular coffee shop on campus, and write this, I look out at all the students around me, the freshman, sophomores, and juniors, and I think, damn, I wish I could go back again.
But this isn’t a normal thought for me. Not at all. As a matter of fact, if you had talked to me yesterday, I would have said something along the lines of, I can’t wait to graduate and get on with my life, college just wasn’t really my thing.
College wasn’t really my thing. Did you catch that?
As emotional as I was this morning, I wasn’t emotional because I am going to miss college. I was emotional because I didn’t make enough out of college.
And here’s why:
To me, college was a place full of parties, freedom, friends, Greek life, late nights partying, knowledge, professors, late nights studying, and eventually, a degree.
College was not a place for growth, for contribution, for involvement, for having deep conversations on a Tuesday night about the greater purpose of life, for gaining mentors, for exploration, for making a difference.
And that’s where I fucked up.
I was never taught the importance of truly getting involved.
“Getting involved” to me was joining a sorority; that was normal. That was where I would find the parties, freedom, friends, late nights partying. And you know what? The first semester I joined was awesome, I truly thought I had found my place. But the second semester, it was different. I was different. I had spent my summer in a very intense position as a sales manager, and in that summer, I had experienced more growth than my previous 19 years of life.
When I came back, I had lost connection. I wanted the deeper conversations, I wanted the strong friendships, I wanted the support, and I couldn’t find it. And any glimpse I found, it just didn’t feel right to me. It wasn’t anyone’s fault; I had changed. I was no longer the person I was when I joined. So, I disaffiliated.
I felt abnormal. My expectations of my sorority were crushed. My reality had been altered and I didn’t know how to adjust.
I threw myself into my work, both my school work, and my sales job. This felt normal to me. This was what college was about, too. The knowledge, the professors, the late nights studying, and eventually, the degree.
I wasn’t aware that there were other ways of getting involved, because to me, my college life was supposed to include a sorority.
That was where I was supposed to find my future bridesmaids.
And when my expectations did not meet reality, I crumbled.
Eventually, I found girls who I could resonate with. Who I felt as though I could grow with. Who I could have those deep conversations with on a Tuesday night. Who would be my bridesmaids.
I felt content, but with that content came complacency. I faded into the background of a very large school, and I stopped trying to “get involved”.
There were glimpses of involvement: a semester playing club water polo, a semester in our school’s leadership program, and currently, during my last semester, a semester in our Entrepreneur Club.
With the exception of E-Club, none of them felt like “home” to me. I just couldn’t find where I fit in outside of my little friend group. So, I would just stop going.
And then came study abroad. I passed up on that opportunity. Do you want to know why? I was afraid of “missing out”. Are you fucking kidding me!? Excuse my french, but quite honestly, I wish someone had smacked me in the face at that point in my life and said DO IT. DO IT. DO IT. DO IT.
I was too wrapped up in the idea of creating the “college life” I had dreamed of, but hadn’t yet achieved.
Did you get that last part?
I was too wrapped up trying to match my expectations that I forgot to pay attention to my reality.
And eventually, I had a falling out with my group of friends, not a huge falling out by any means, but once again, the expectations I had for our friendship had been altered. I was growing in my own way, and they were growing in their own ways. And thus, we grew apart.
So now, there is one month left until graduation. And as I stared at my cap and gown this morning, I was hit with so many emotions. So many things I wish I had done.
But you know what? I didn’t. And I can’t go back now.
I have come to terms with the fact that my expectations did not meet reality, and that’s okay.
I created my own reality outside of school. I just didn’t realize it. I was involved in other places, just not the typical places. Most people don’t find life long friendships from their summer jobs, but I did.
Most people are too afraid to step away from what is normal. I was.
But without noticing it, I did.
And after sitting down a really reflecting on these last 4 years, while there are some things I wish I did differently, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
As they say, “Everything Happens For A Reason”. And here I am today, for a reason, and a reason that I am still figuring out.
College wasn’t really my thing. But because of college, I found my “thing”. And I’m grateful for every step along the way that has ended me up here.
So my advice to you?
If you are going into college, or still in college: Do everything you can to study abroad. Whether it’s for a month or 4 months. Just do it. Do everything you can to get involved beyond just Greek life. There are amazing clubs and organizations on your campus that serve a bigger purpose. Just do it. Get involved and create a name for yourself. You deserve this.
If you are graduating and you feel as though your expectations were not met: That’s reality. I’ve been there. I’m still there. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t make the next 4 years of your life meaningful. The saying “college is the best 4 years of your life” is bullshit, don’t buy in to it.
If you are graduating and you loved every second of your college experience: GREAT! That’s incredible and you will tell your children stories for years and years to come. But remember, this chapter of your life has come to an end. Don’t forget to carry your excitement on to the next chapter, because remember, “time flies by”, keep making an impact.
Life is crazy, isn’t it?
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P.S. You ever realize you totally neglected to add something in a blog? Ok, good I’m not alone because I feel like a total jerk: At the beginning of my junior year, I was fortunate enough to gain membership into the Executive Mentor Scholars Program at my school, and I was paired with a fabulous mentor who really helped me work through some major decisions I made that actually lead to my current reality. That was probably the one thing I actually allowed me to get slightly more involved on campus.