We’ve all been told at one point or another in our lives that college will be “the best four years of your life.”
So what happens when college is not like this? What happens when it rains 4 out of 7 days a week and you have to work weekend nights while everyone else goes out to party? What happens when you hate your roommate, you’re failing chemistry, or you simply feel you don’t belong?
Here I am, almost holding my breath until the end. I just want to get through it. I recall countless nights alone in my room, moved to tears by the thought, “I don’t think I’m doing college right.”
The College Experience
What’s your definition?
Our perception of the college life is molded by popular television shows, movies and intentionally captured photos of yards littered with red solo cups and beautiful girls in miniskirts that flood Instagram nearly every day of the week.
I felt the pressure to fit in, and I tried it. I took on the role of Party Girl for a semester and I partied my face off nightly.
Party Girl: the one who dances on tables, takes too many shots, flirts too much, drinks too little water, and yells way louder than is socially acceptable.
And boy, was it exhausting.
The thing is, being a party girl looks so fun. They don’t have any troubles, they just party them away. The good times seem to suppress the bad times, and every trouble is just a trifle easily erased with a reckless night. Even Sia herself sang in her song Chandelier, “Party girls don’t get hurt.” Because when you’re sad, college kids encourage you to get over it by drowning your sorrows in 5 or so shots of cheap vodka and dance the night away like nothing even happened in the first place.
I didn’t want to stumble around and slur about nothing at all anymore. I didn’t want to be a party girl. I wanted to be a woman.
Despite all the eyeliner and high heels, being a party girl is really about extending your childhood, by hiding under the cover of what a child’s idea of being an adult is like. Being a party girl is a way of putting off figuring out who you are, what you believe, what your values are. Most days, I think of the time I wasted as a tragedy — the books I could have written! The trips I could have taken! The non-womanizing guys I could have dated! — but sometimes, I think I needed that extra time.
The amount of time I spent drunk or the amount of friends I have do not determine whether my college experience was memorable or even successful. 10 years from now, I won’t look fondly on my party days. They won’t be the memories I share with my children. I would never write a novel about them. What I will remember, share, and be proud of are the times I laughed so hard I cried. I’ll remember the adventures of exploring the hidden treasures of the city. I’ll remember endless tacos and margaritas with my best friend. Most of all, I’ll cherish how much I learned about myself.
College is all about discovering passions, learning how to be yourself, and looking towards the future. Therefore, the real college experience is found in the relationship you build with yourself. We’re learning our capabilities. We’re learning our limits. Most of all, we’re engaging our passions and creating our own image of the world.
To truly “experience” college, I don’t have to go to parties, I don’t have to be single, and I don’t have to sleep around.
So have fun and go to parties if you want to! There’s nothing wrong with a little partying! I love to dance! But now, I don’t feel like I’m missing out if I don’t. There’s nothing wrong with alcohol! I love drinking IPA on an outdoor patio with my friends. I enjoy getting wine tipsy and watching movies until the a.m., but I now know that it can be abused, and it isn’t a requirement to have fun.
Everyone has a different experience. When it’s time to put these four years into a memory box, your wisdom and mental strength will be the recollections that will accompany you to your future. That’s what the real college experience is all about.
So many people think once college is done, life is over. That there’s nothing out there for them and they have to work a boring job and live a boring life. But guess what? YOUR LIFE IS JUST BEGINNING. If the average person lives until 70 something and you graduate in your early 20’s, you aren’t even halfway done with your life. How’s that for perspective?
Start looking at college as a stepping-stone to that dream life you have always wanted, whether that’s backpacking the world, becoming a second grade teacher, opening your own restaurant, getting married and becoming a mother, finding the cure for cancer, running for president, whatever. Start climbing rather than thinking you’ve reached your final destination. C’mon, you haven’t reached your peak yet. You aren’t even close. You’ve got the rest of your life ahead of you.
It’s time to debunk the myth that college is the best four years of your life. College is for struggling through things, getting your first sense of real independence, and figuring out who you really are. Whether you decide to take a year off, transfer, or not go to college at all, the decision is yours.
College is what you make it. Have fun, make mistakes, experience new things, but never let anyone, including yourself, tell you what your experience should be.