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.

The Importance of Planning Ahead

Growing up, I was decent at school. I had above average grades, but I mucked about like any of my friends. From a distance it would be difficult to understand why I was so much better with my grades compared to my “under-performing” peers. Do I think I was smarter than them? No, not really. After all, I once tried breaking up a random fight I had not dog in. I’m probably on the dumber side of the population if anything.

What I did do well was plan. I was extremely rigid about it as well. If I missed even 5 minutes of studying, I’d remove my break time and study more. Punctuality was a consequence of my planning, nothing more. Every semester I’d plan my day down to 15 minutes and barely enough flexibility to keep me sane. Whenever I got a new class or job, I’d throw out my old schedule and make something completely different. Deviation from the schedule was intolerable, but there were instances of me doing so without my consent. However, I did everything in my power to avoid such horrible tragedies. One of my most embarrassing secrets is that I did a fairly good job of studying other people’s tendencies and schedules and factored that into my own. “No I can’t go get food at 6 because I’ll see Tom on the way and I’ll have to listen to him for hours”. In a perfect world, everything would have been like I was one of those super villains watching the hero beat up their thugs and saying, “It’s all going according to plan”.

Now the most obvious reason for why I planned so much was because of my household, but that was not the case in the slightest. My parents were not helicopter parents, they never asked about them. They were always impressed when they’d see my grades at the end of the year and how I managed to do anything else in the meantime. Deep-down the planning obsession was all mine. It was not healthy.

Why did I start or care about schedules so much? I can’t be certain, but it’s probably the control. Life is a bunch of random event occurring one after another. Each day has new problems along with older ones that still linger. Planning gave me that cathartic release from the stress of my life. Frankly there was not that much happening in my life at any one given moment, but that single ounce of stress made me want a life completely filled with.

The schedule became worse than the stress than the stress being mitigated. Missing one study period to hang out with friends sent me into a frenzy all-nighter to recover. I was always checking my phone to make sure I did not miss my 5 PM break-time. Yup, I reached the point where missing my time intended for relaxing was stressing me out. Don’t get me wrong, I stuck to the schedule probably around 90% of the time. However, I forgot to factor in two things.

First I’m human. Sometimes it would take me 32 minutes to learn something even though I only allocated 30 minutes. Spotting a random guy at the gym added 5 minutes to my workout time and I cursed him out the entire drive back in my car. Also, always doing the same things at certain times really grinds you down eventually. No one likes being in a rut, but the schedule made the rut. How could I plan to not be in a rut, when planning was what threw me in it to begin with? The mind needs to be stimulated and after a while it’ll figure out your everyday patterns.

The second was that life has too many variations. How could I possibly know that my grandparents were moving in the summer and therefore need me to help move their stuff instead of working more hours at my summer job? How could I have known that the girl living in the dorm suite next to me was going to have an emotional collapse and need at least 3 people to help her through it? The schedule did not always have the answers. It could account for the mundane stuff, but outliers completely screwed it up.

Schedules are good in determining what you know you need to get done and figuring out how much time you have to do it. However, they shouldn’t become your personal Bible. I still make schedules, but now I place much more flexible hours to allow for unexpected events. If I miss some time for studying, well I guess I’ll just have to study harder later.

Maybe I shouldn’t be having these thoughts right before finals though…

How to Make a Life Changing Decision

Changes in your life can make or break you as a person. Making the right choice on a decision can lead to you hanging at the chillest restaurants and wearing the freshest clothes. Making the wrong choice and oh man. You’re stuck spending the rest of your life thinking “What if?”. The answer to that question may not be the best to think about. Beating yourself up about it won’t help you at all and eventually you’ll have to face Everyone will have at least two or three of these in their lives.

Should I ask her out?

Should I really move across the country for this job?

Should I post my naked ass on the internet?

There are no definite answers for questions like these (except the last one, trust me). I’m sure you’ve spent hours weighing pros and cons. It’s always good to do this, just to see exactly where your fears and aspirations lies with the decision. Some might seem a bit far-fetched,

“If I move to the desert, I’m at an increased likelihood of being struck by a meteor, but at the same time vending machine accident probability goes way down”

That is the kind of thought that keeps me up at night…

Not only will there be an immediate impact when you make that decision, there will be residual outcomes and unspecified side effects. The world will keep spinning even after you make your decision, unless that decision was stopping the Earth from spinning. That back tattoo of a butterfly will infuriate your parents and they’ll cut off your $1000 allowance. Joining an underground fight club will lead to you blowing up a bunch of credit card companies’ buildings. You know typical x causes y, but then z,q,r,and p too. Once the decision is made understand that there will be an afterwards.

There is a lot of emotion that goes along with making a decision like moving across the country. Your parents will miss you and you’ll miss the free rent. You shouldn’t just move because you’re angry at your parents and its all a part of your parents’ punishment. You need to be as objective as possible. You might change you’re mind when you see how much it costs to even live in a cardboard box in Los Angeles. Spend a day relaxing and free of others before making a decision and before the days comes when you make the final decision repeat and see if there were any doubts during that window of time.

The final piece to making the decision is acceptance of your decision. No matter what your decision is there will be positives and negatives. Different people in your life will disagree with either decision and its up to you to accept the decision you’ve made. Be proud of the decision you’ve made, knowing that you did whatever you had to to make the best of your situation. I guarantee it won’t be a perfect life afterwards, yet its almost comforting in a sense that both decisions have their own flaws to them. If you’re lucky enough to still have the chance to go back on your decision later, just be ready to go through the same process above to undo it, BUT ONLY IF YOU KNOW WITH 100 PERCENT CERTAINTY THAT ONE CHOICE HAD MORE NEGATIVES.

You’re molded by your decisions and its from this mold that the current you is made. That current you will also be in charge of future decisions so do what you can to make the decisions as easy as possible. Everyone will have a difficult decision in their life at one point or another, so make sure you can help others when they go through something similiar.