When I was first heading off to college, back when dinosaurs walked the Earth, people said this a lot: “Oh, that’s so great. Enjoy it – it’s the best four years of your life.”
I’m sure they meant well, but mostly it just puzzled me and made me nervous to graduate – if college is the best four years of your life, and your average student graduates in their early twenties, what of the next 40-50 years?
What had these people done with the rest of their lives? Is college really that great? Or does the rest of life just suck that much?
I continued to hear that comment all four years, and it continued to bother me – especially when I saw mentors graduate and beginning lifestyles that made them come alive. They, if anything, seemed relieved to be out of college.
I get that college is special. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime environment of young people in their physical prime, who are at least minimally intelligent – all looking for a life-changing experience. It’s a chance to get the last drops of wild blood out before we’re supposed to grow up – and often it is done, at least partially, on someone else’s dime.
I get that adulthood can suck. For some people the transition to car payments, insurance, full time jobs, rent, utilities (whatever that means), children and their accompanying expenses, is more abrupt than for others.
But college can’t be better than the entire rest of our lives. I’ve only been out for 2 months, but I have to believe that the best years of my life are a matter of choice. Though we weren’t quite sure how, we knew college would change our lives – and we chose to go. The choices don’t end at graduation. The questions become more complex than “Should I go to college? And, if so, where?” but they still remain – what shall I do with the rest of my life?
I know that isn’t the question our culture usually gives us. It gives us TV shows like Everybody Loves Raymond that make it seem like adulthood is nothing but doldrums, mediocrity and repression. Why should that be the rest of your life?
You don’t have to take it from me. I’m barely out of college. But it seems to me that much of what we did in college we can do as adults – it’s just the depth and richness with which we can do it. Bud Light turns in to craft beer; teaching incoming freshmen how college is totally rad turns in to teaching interns and college grads about professional development; having a voice in your student government (or maybe not, depending on your school) turns in to the ability to actually run for office and have your voice heard in the federal government; rampant hooking up turns into a meaningful experience with a person that you love, and with whom you have a history.
Or we could just plant our asses on the couch of mediocrity and flip stations.