The Best Four Years of Your Life?
Art by Kirsten Hemrich
The other day I heard a woman, a law school graduate with a really awesome job and absolutely no reason to think her life is boring whatsoever, describe college as “the best four years of your life.” This statement was distressing for multiple reasons. While I have loved most of my time at this school and hope to look back on these four years as an incredibly formative part of my life, dear God please help us all if this is really the best it’s going to be. I know that this reaction is melodramatic, but I can’t help but think that if this is what the best four years of our lives is supposed to look like, then we are all really screwed for the future. I say this because I have never been more stressed, sleep-deprived, confused, emotional, and completely terrified than in the time I have spent in college. I’m really not ready to graduate, but if post-grad life only gets worse, then there is no question that I will be taking a 5th or 6th year.
I love college. I love that no one expects too much of me at this point other than going to class and getting pretty good grades. I love that all of my friends live in one place, and everybody is within a five minute walk from me at any time of the day. I love that I can take two naps in a day and no one judges me for it. All of these aspects of college are really awesome, and I’m sure that there won’t be another time in my life when I’m surrounded by all these conveniences. Despite everything good about my life right now, I have to believe that it only gets better. I have to believe that there is so much more to life than stressing over my GPA or crying in the library bathroom because I have a cumulative exam in 3 hours that is worth 33% of my grade. It has to get better than watching 5 frat boys pee off a balcony on a Thursday night at 1am when you should be home reading Northanger Abbey. As I sit here and write this, I currently have three papers due that are all no less than 10 pages in length. I haven’t started a single one of these papers.
Aside from grades, I have never had such intense insecurities about not being included in events as I do now. I go out all the time because I’m afraid of missing out on anything fun, but most nights we all end up doing the same thing we normally do anyway: drink way too much and wake up the next morning with some serious regrets about the night before. There are days where my friends and I mix it up. We might go take a day trip somewhere or explore something in Charlottesville, but for the most part we do activities with a lot of drinking and it’s physically exhausting to constantly have a BAC. My cells are screaming for water, but I will be damned if my friend and I can’t finish our second pitcher of Boldrock on a Saturday evening. I woke up one morning after an incredibly heavy night of drinking and actually had to sit down in the shower because I could not stand for 5 minutes to bathe myself. My body was in that much pain. I’ve also woken up next to a to-go box full of roasted potatoes that I do not recall bringing into the bed with me in the first place. I really had to take a step back and consider why it was necessary for one human to drink so much after these events transpired. I mean I am literally poisoning myself for the sake of socialization.
I also am almost completely financially dependent on my mom, so I really have no freedom in how I choose to spend my money. Once a month, my mom calls to scream at me about the bank statement, asking who in their right mind needs to spend $60 at chick-fil-a in one weekend. And the answer is nobody. No one should spend $60 on fast food over the course of two days anywhere. If your body is a temple, my religion is Satanic worship. So that is really lovely. I long for the day when I don’t have to feel guilty for spending money that isn’t mine, when I don’t have to consider how my mom will react to the purchase of 4 cases of Diet Coke at 7:00am. That is true financial freedom.
While writing this I am reminded of a quote from Shakespeare. Yeah, I’m going to throw a Shakespeare quote in this and class it up a bit because I’m not sure how my readership will react to my potato debacle. Anyway, here it is: What’s past is prologue. I didn’t actually read the play that this is taken from, The Tempest, but I still find it relatable to this time in my life. All of this that’s happening right now is just the beginning. This is just the taster for what life really has to offer. I like to imagine post-grad life as the pay-off for all the stress and insecurity I felt during my time in college. I know I will probably have to work a 9-5 job for a while and still find bathrooms in which to cry my eyes out about one thing or another. But there has to be something more substantive than the four years we spend at college. Life doesn’t have to stop being fun at 22, and if you do give up on the potential for a really good time after this, then it’s time to seriously reevaluate how you spent the last four years. College and everything that has come before is a continuing prologue for all the really amazing parts of life. The narrative doesn’t end with college, but it continues as a much more exciting and unexpected story.