Graduation Blues

Graduation is bittersweet. But it’s for the best.

For college students, May is always a bittersweet time.

Finals and Graduation are the roughest time of the year and they happen right after each other.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 19.9 million students attend college in Fall 2018 and 1.9 million bachelor’s degrees would be awarded in the U.S. That’s a lot of student debt.

“First you have to take a test for a quarter of your grade for each class you took this semester and then you get to leave college forever.”

Finishing finals was like making it to the end of the tunnel. You put yourself through a high stress situation where you had a serious chance of death, or worse failure. There was always that one project that you had underestimated (or several) and at least one moment where you had to weigh studying for one class versus another.

“I need a A- in this class to get at least a C in Stats, but the Eastern European Paper is 50% of my grade. Guess I’ll write the first and last quarter of the paper and the middle will just sort of average out.”

There is nothing more satisfying than finishing your finals and spending the next week at home just sleeping and being as lazy as physically possible. Every time after finals I’d always return home tired and sick, pushing myself insanely hard.

However, there was also this aspect that I was one year closer to getting my degree accompanied with the fact that I was one less year of college to have fun. After all the point of getting a college education was to improve yourself and better your chances of finding a worthwhile job. Yet at the same time, college is probably the time in your life where you have the most freedom.

True you will be swamped with homework and prepping for test, but unlike high school you didn’t need to be in class for 7 straight hours. Plus you were at least 18 and according to you ID you were 22. Couple that with the fact that everyone else had an excessive of amount of free time would lead to some awesome experiences. Once you go full time there’s no more of that.

And on top of using up another year of freedom, your senior friends would be gone. Moving on to pursue careers, setting down their kegs and funnels for the last time. As an underclassmen its hard to imagine what that feeling is like. No more stresses about finals and homework, only stresses about finances and being an adult. Every senior I met handled it differently, some trying to fill every second they had left by being as not sober as possible while other sat back and looked back with quiet pride.

I’m not sure exactly how any of my friends truly felt upon graduation, but for me it was a sad transition, but a necessary one. My college days were done and what I had done during them were set. I was left only with my vague memories, my degree, and my regrets. I know there was plenty of stuff I wish I did in college that I was too short-sighted to do. I ignored people that would have made good friends and I avoided a lot of events and parties because I wanted that one extra tenth of a GPA point.

Would I completely change everything that I did in college?

No. I’m glad to have met the people I met and experiences I did have.

But I do wish I truly understood how special that time in my life was and the sheer volume of opportunity presented to you. It was all there for the taking, but you had to be aware of it and make an effort to try for it. At some level, I think every college grad experiences this feeling. It’s impossible to make the right decision every time and do everything that someone knew they would like.

If you’re sad that your college days are over, understand that ending them allow you to look back and appreciate the experiences that you had. It’s difficult to see what benefits those days truly were if you’re still in college. Once you’re out it becomes apparent quite quickly and all you’re left with your experiences and your growth.

Processing the change can be as easy as a day or as long as a decade. Everyone reflects at their own speed.

So seniors feel sad for finishing your college days. It means that what you had really was special. Just don’t get too sad.

The Thing Everyone Misses Most From College

The thing people miss most from college isn’t the parties. It’s something even more precious.

One of the most jarring things about post-grad life is the jarring shift in lifestyle. Now not everyone may have had this, but most people had such a massive increase in independence moving from high school to college. It’s jarring, Now you can go to sleep whenever you want or not at all. You can skip a day or three of classes and no one will stop you (although you are paying thousands of dollars to just skip class). A bag of Sour Patch Kids can be your means of sustenance for an entire weekend and cleaning your bathroom becomes optional.

Lots of kids thrive under all this increase in free-time; the kids who are seemingly doing it all from joining new clubs, getting good grades, and still managing to party every night somehow. Others are obliterated by it. Skipping classes leads to knowing even less about the class, worse grades, and the next thing you know a test is coming up, but it was only announced in the class they skipped. Getting high takes such a priority over everything from cleaning, cooking, and exercise that it’s all you’re really known for. Everyone reacts to this new independence differently, but its an independence that’ll only increase after graduation.

For those who could afford the luxury, the large amounts of free time were the best aspect of college. It goes hand in hand with the increased independence, but this free time disappears after college with full employment. Joining clubs, partying, getting high–they all required that you not only had the independence to do them, but the free time as well. And most college kids have that in spades. You can point to some kids who had to work while at college and it’s a shame that they had to deal with the extra stresses of college without as many of the benefits. Free time was a luxury that not even all college students got. Yet for those who did, it’s a feeling unlike any other. You only had to put in as much work into classes as you felt like and just get up and leave class itself if you felt like it. And then there were all the vacations on top of that.

In college and earlier school, all the vacations were ridiculous. You’d get multiple months off in the summer for finishing a grade level. No other reason. Spring vacation, winter vacation, holiday break; my parents would always be surprised (and annoyed) at all the time I had off. You didn’t have any work to do and its not like you had to use up your personal vacation days to use them. Lots of high-schoolers would start working or bolstering their college resumes with tests and classes over the summers, but it’s a shame that they don’t realize what they’ll soon lose.

In college, its the perfect storm of early adulthood with free time that really lets you start experiencing things that you wanted, or at least stuff you think you wanted. Freshman year is a blitz of hanging out with different people until you find the group you want to hang out with, clubs to try out each week, Greek societies, parties, figuring out your major. You can make some life-altering decisions for the better or worse. It’s wild to think that I made all these choices as an 18 year old. I may have been a legal adult, but I sure wasn’t one mentally.

Free time can be dangerous. You can be as productive as you want to be. Spend all your time partying and you’ll feel the consequences soon enough. Plenty of people will warn you about that, but the inverse is also true. One can spend all your time studying, working, and stretching yourself to the limit. After a point its unsustainable and there’s no one required to stop you from doing it. It’s something I fell victim to and regret immensely. I had so much free time and I used it all to study. Obviously studying is important, but college does offer other services. There were so many people I met towards the end of my college career that I felt would’ve been great people to hang out with, but I only met them once my final classes were more or less done. Clubs I would’ve loved to try were ones I only heard about in my final semester.

Party all the time and your grades will suffer. Study all the time and you will suffer. Both are easy pitfalls to fall into and its up to you and your new independence to find what works best for you.

Free time is a resource and it’s your goal to spread the wealth while you have it.

Finding Yourself in College

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It’s such a cliche isn’t it? College is where you figure out who you are and where you fit in. High school had you still under the control of your parents for the most part, although I’ve seen some horror stories of parents continuing their reign into college. College gives you a degree which is amazing in itself, but almost as important is how you react to such an increase in freedom.

You wanna drink at 3 AM in your bathroom? In college that’s a typical Wednesday night. Wanna drive a state over to drop acid at some concert? No one is gonna stop you. The sudden shift from subservience to almost complete freedom (within legal confines of course) is yours. Some people feel almost no difference. More of the same for them. Others can’t function. They have been told what to do and why for years and now these fledgling adults were expected to do laundry and homework without someone telling them to do so.

Is it really that simple or is it one of those Hollywood moments? You come in a piece of clay. You exit molded by your experiences and understand exactly what you want to do in life. Some kids just want that dream career or the feeling of accomplishment that comes with a degree. Others just want to find people to make memories with, through video games, clubs, or alcohol. How many ways can you really find yourself though?

I have no clue who I am. Quite frankly I know even less about myself than before and only have one year left to go. I’ve hung out with the partiers, the stoners, the athletes, the nerds, the loners, the weird kids, whatever. The list goes on and on. If there is a cliche for a type of person, I’ve hung out with them. From all of that I found that I have no idea who I fit in with best. There are ups and downs with how each of them handle themselves and it seems so clear-cut from their perspective. For me I was none of those. I was just a wanderer. I enjoyed being with these groups, yet that’s it. Being with them is different than being them.

I get it. Woes is me. The tragic tale of the guy who doesn’t have a place. How horrible it must be to fit in with almost anyone (though I’m not that good at that still trust me). I surely can’t be the only one right? I’m not worried I’ll never find my purpose in college. It’s just a strange realization to be having. Am I missing something? Probably. There was definitely a lecture that explained how to determine who you were in college and I was taking a dump somewhere else at the time.

Maybe the point of college is to show you that you’re never just one thing. Or at least that’s what I’ll use to justify my situation. I mean there is still time for me to figure out who I am, but clearly I’m not looking in the right places.

Maybe my spirit animal got run over by a car on its way to my college.

College Love Tragedy

College is a strange time for people. Some people are figuring out how to be adults. Most haven’t even started worrying about it. Certain kids I saw on campus looked like they were fresh out of a middle school, while others were already bald (I still think about that guy).

I’ve never seen such a mix of people in one area before and the amount of dumb shit that resulted from it is astounding. Whoever thought it was a good idea to group thousands of young adults in a small area should be forced to live with them for a year. I never knew how dumb people could be until I lived on-campus and I worked in retail. My freshman hall went through at least 3 microwaves at the expense of finding out what happens when you let metal get hit by magnets or whatever the hell makes microwaves work.

I have plenty of stories about college, but only one captured the essence of love in a single night.

For background, I lived in a hall with suites; basically a common room and bathroom with four rooms connected to them. I lived with some athletes, stoners, and a really strange kid. However, the stars of this short tale are not us, but the room across from us.

707.

Room 707 was a girls suite and housed 8 girls who all had a variation of “Taylor” for names. It was spooky. I don’t think any of them were named Taylor, rather names like Taylah and Tally. When they introduced themselves to our suite, I just assumed there had been one girl named Taylor in the room that had control over them all, but that was just a theory.

Anyways, these girls were fairly…recyclable. Not quite trashy, but from a distance its hard to tell the difference. Loud, drunk, they garnered a lot of attention from other guys. None of the trashiness mattered as long as they were willing to date/screw guys. The college that I went to had an extremely poor guy to girl ratio, so finding a group of girls was difficult enough. Just being a girl and conscious made you at least a 7 at our school.  It was rumored that we were an all-guy school with a couple of cross -dressing students. I have never seen an almost all guy yoga class before, but the disappointment combined with testosterone was palpable.

So a poor girl to guy ratio combined with a room full of recyclable girls, its like a perfect storm of drama.

Among the Taylor ranks, one rose above the rest over time. I’ll call her Taylor because I cannot remember what her real one was. Taylor was fairly cute and extremely social. She barged into my suite on the first day to talk everyone up and personally invite her whole suite to ours. At the party she was all over everyone yet had a vibe of just friendliness at the same time. I don’t think I had ever met a blackout drunk that was so accommodating and friendly. They usually just say that they’re too drunk and pass out in our trashcan.

Anyways Taylor garnered a lot of attention that night along with the rest of the Taylor squad.

Every weekend after, gentleman callers would slip into the suite at various times of the day. I’m talking like 5-8 a day. Our suite would call out which lady he was whispering poetry and propose dowries for their hands. It became a game.

“Hey jack-o-lantern head is back again for Tay-tay no doubt.”

“Nah man I heard he’s with Tyalor (sic) now”

We were in no way trying to shame them, but man was it a drama fest. I have seen more fights occurring in that hallway between 707 and our room than I’ve seen in a Pay Per View Special. A couple times the fight would spill into our room and I can assure you that restraining a 6 foot 4 football player with a blood alcohol content of 1.00 is difficult when you’re fresh out of the shower.

Taylor ruled over the rest of them though and accepted nearly every challenger.

That one Taylor was essentially the Helen of Troy to the campus. The wars with the victor stumbling into her room to receive their prize. It was a weekly event.However there was one night that was different.

One of my roommates was on lookout, ready to call if any drama was about to unfold, and suddenly noticed an unfamiliar face.

He called from the door, “How often does a ginger kid with an under-bite come by?”

My mind instantly raced with a sea of faces, but none quite matched. He didn’t seem like someone who frequented the 707 girls.

“Oh God he brought flowers what the hell.”

Everyone within earshot in our suite rushed to the door, peaking through any crevice we could see through. Our giggling was only stifled by our curiosity.

When I managed to sneak a peek at him, I recognized him and horror began to fill my chest. I knew him. He was a kid in my Actuarial Math class. I’ll just say that kids in those classes were not exactly studs, myself included. He was so out of his league he was in a different sport. He was so out of place he was in orbit. He was so not supposed to be there that he shouldn’t have been there.

I later learned that he had been in a group project with her and her constant flirting was taken the wrong way. No one knows how he found out where she lived. He was pacing back and forth, doing some last second integrals to check his chances.

To everyone’s horror/humor, a basketball player shoved him aside and went into 707’s suite. The contrast between athlete and actuary was staggering. These were two people who did not even acknowledge each other’s existence in college.

We could see him rethinking his plans, fighting with his doubts. I could gauge what he was thinking pretty well.

“That guy was going to see a different girl in the suite. Taylor is different. She likes me.”

That poor man.

After about five minutes, he did it.

Without so much as a knock, he went in. I could not see what was happening, but I could hear yelling and screaming almost immediately. The guy had barged in on her and the basketball player practicing the pelvic heimlich maneuver.

He dropped the flower and bolted out. Taylor ran to the door to scream at him and the basketball player chased after him. I have no clue what the two did, but neither came back that night.

Taylor was still butt naked and every one of my roommates could not keep quiet witnessing nature in all its beauty. Her gaze shifted to our door and we bolted to our on rooms within the suite.

We all waited a bit before we heard her door close and I slowly came back out to check if anything else would happen. I was surprised to see that the basketball player never returned, but a new challenger, a lacrosse player came in nearly 20 minutes later to, I can only extrapolate here, finish what the basketball player had started.

I don’t know what lesson I should have learned from this situation. College love does not exist. Yet at the same time, the confidence and determination of the Math Man were commendable. In the end, it was the man who waited who got the prize, not the romantic or the first-comer (ha).

College is weird.

Exceptionalism

Exceptionalism is something everyone tries to attain. What this exceptional attribute may differ from person to person,but that desire for mastery and becoming the top in one’s field is across the board. No child wants to be a bench warmer in the pros. No writer wants to just write in a blog once in a while.

It is a predisposition for us to want to be the very best. Our hopes and dreams put us on the top of humanity, being adored for the rest of your life and being etched into humanity’s records for all future generations to revere you. There is a desire to be something far larger than one is.

For almost 100% of the population that is simply not possible for them to attain. If everyone was exceptional then no one would be. For there to be Bill Gates, there were thousands of people who invested in coding,but could never get it right or simply were not lucky to be exposed with their findings.

For every Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth had countless failures, but only some people persisted. Is it blind optimism? Possibly.

Am I talking out my ass? Certainly, but hey I like writing about whatever.

We want all the benefits of benefits from being the best, but man the process sucks. Its almost impossible to find cases of people succeeding at the first chance they get. Sure some are more predisposed to excelling at certain things. If I ever become a seven foot tall behemoth you’ll definitely see me on the court some day. I have a friend who is 6 foot four and he is bombarded with questions about trying to go pro. Too bad he’s the most uncoordinated person the world has ever decided to spawn. Even with these advantages there’s still no guarantee of success. Yet even then there are still other people fighting with you to get to that same goal. Fighting to be a famous writer is a bloodbath while being the number one chainsaw juggler is a bit less broad in scope (not to say it isn’t impressive).

How much of this are we in control of? People love the underdog story and of the self-made man (or woman), but how attainable is it? It happens for sure, but how much is circumstance and genetics and what is the hard work portion. If you’ve seen any of those gym site its always showing these fit models sweating their asses off. They’re not showing the scrawny version that they were for the majority of the time. The gym is more packed in January than Time Square is during New Year’s Eve, ” This is the year I lose the baby fat and pick up that chick on the treadmill with the firmest ass I’ve ever stared at for too long”. The difference is that that girl has been going for 4 years and has been ogled her entire gym career. She’s been running on that same damn treadmill everyday at the same time after eating the same meals for before you knew what leg day was.

I always felt I was one who would strive for goodness, but not greatness. I was an A- student. I went to the gym fairly regularly and ate healthy 4 outta the 7 days of the week. Motivation was a fleeting concept with the occasional appearance in my life. There was a general feeling to be decent at everything I did. That was it though. I never felt like I had to be number one in anything growing up. The top was good, but the very top was too much work.

Was I born to be meh or was it a lifestyle choice? I hold the (rather optimistic) belief that enough effort can alter your life. There is a level though that can’t be attained without some help.

You see the type of person I’m talking about everywhere. They give all they got in everything they do and it shows. Did the effort cause the exceptionalism or did the exceptionalism spawn even more effort to be called upon?

I’m not sure anymore man, my head hurts from thinking about this too much. My fault for trying.