We all heard it when we were graduating high school: "College is going to be the best four years of your life."
And they really sell you on the fact that it's going to be. A new place. living on your own, no parental supervision, parties, no curfews. Sounds like a dream, right?
I've noticed that, after freshman year, people start to admit that they really hated the first semester of college. With the help of Instagram, everyone makes life seem like it's sunshine and rainbows all day every day.
Look at my new friends. Look at my new clothes. Look at this cool place I went to today.
But there's a lot of pain behind that. For a lot of people, it's hard to be away from home. It's hard to figure out to make sure you're getting three meals a day. It's hard to find the motivation to go to class and do you work when there's no one there to hold you accountable.
That wasn't my story though. I loved my freshman year of college. At least I told myself I did. I was partying all the time, I thought I had found great friends, and I never felt homesick.
But at the end of my freshman year, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And that was my wake-up call.
Coping with bipolar disorder wasn't what ruined college for me. It was a lot of other rude awakenings that did.
First of all, those "friends for life," turned on me. I lost everything. I was alone. I was being bullied online (yes, bullied, as a grown ass college student), and I truly felt unsafe walking around campus, like I had to constantly watch my back.
So what did I do? I left.
The transfer experience was a good one for me. I came home, I got my grades up. But I didn't really make a life for myself at school. I commuted all through my second half of college and was at the mercy of the train schedule. I wanted to be able to get home so I could work out, get my work done, and go the hell to bed.
I made that choice. I don't regret it.
But I think the real thing that turned me off from college was that I realized that it was all subjective. Every paper I handed in, every response essay that I wrote, every critical thinking question on an exam: whether or not it was "good enough" was determined by a professor. And I really didn't like that.
People come to me a lot asking how to cope with failure, how to manage your emotions when you feel like you're working so hard and your grades don't reflect it.
My answer? College is a social construct. You give them your money, they teach for a test, you get a grade, you move on. You get a job. In a nutshell, that's it.
I don't regret going to college. I know that it's important in this economy to have a degree.
I'm graduating in three years. I have friends who are graduating on a formal, four-year track who can't bear the thought of leaving college, who don't understand why I'm not sad.
I worked all through college. At some points, three jobs. And I realized that is where my heart was. Not in a classroom. Because I felt that, through my work, I was making an impact on other people. The research paper that I bullshitted the night before and managed to get a 92 on serves no one but myself.
My point in all of this is that you don't have to love college. It doesn't have to be the best four (three) years of your life. These years were marked with a lot of struggle and hardship for me. Tears were shed, friends were lost, and I found myself starting over again and again.
On May 10th, somewhere around 1:30 PM, they'll call my name. I'll walk proudly, because I know I made this happen, I know I was the one who created this success for myself. But I won't look back fondly on the experience as a whole. Yes, there were some amazing moments, some once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
But I wouldn't go back and do it again. You won't catch me crying tears of sadness at graduation.
Now, I'm focused on what's to come. I see the things that I have wanted for so long, the freedom I felt like I didn't have, the possibilities that await, and that excites me more than waking up every day to go to class ever did.
If college was the best four years of your life, kudos to you. Sometimes, I wish that had been the case for me. But I'm also perfectly content with the shoulder shrug I offer when people ask me about my non-traditional college experience.
So, to sum it up: College can be the best four years of your life, but if it isn't, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.