The months before I graduated from college, however long ago, I couldn’t wait to get out. I had reached a point where anything and everything I was involved with or did was incredibly old. My classes stopped challenging me and I knew New York was in such a short reach, but it felt like I couldn’t extend to grasp it. I was in a relationship I knew was dead-end but my insecurities kept me from cutting the chord.
And yet, as I approached my graduation day (a semester earlier than anticipated, mind you) – I can’t count how many people warned, “Linds, college is the best time of your life. You’re going to miss it once you’re in the real world.”
I disagreed then, and I still beg to differ now.
Going away to school – even if it it’s just two hours away, like it was for me – teaches a kid a lot about growing up. You learn how to make Easy-Mac, how to avoid (or lose eventually) the freshmen 15, and how to force yourself to do things you do not want to do (biology at 8 a.m.). If you’re lucky, you also learn how to share a twin bed with someone, how to get over a college guy (or guys) with unfavorable intentions, and figure out not only your place on campus, but where you’ll be placed after you’re deemed certified by an accredited institution. When I was in college, I remember this feeling of not knowing where my life would go or if I’d ever get to the destination and the job I heavily preached and promised I’d arrive at. Because I never quite felt like I belonged on top of a mountain (imagine that) – I’m not sure I fully embraced being a college girl to the degree that I could have.
However, though I worried more than I partied, I also felt a sense of security by being in school.
When you’re a sophomore you know in a year, if all goes accordingly, you’ll be a junior. You have an idea of the track your courses will take or where you’ll rise in leadership at whatever organization you’re passionate about. You know when you’ll start applying for internships and you know when you’ll move out of the dorms and into an apartment. While there may be uncertainties about what happens after college, when you’re wrapped up in the books and the looks from upperclassmen you pass in the commons – you don’t have to wonder too much about what’s ahead of you. You basically know where you’ll be 12 months from that moment, no matter what. Perhaps it’s that feeling of not having to grow up too much, not having to plan everything out, or not having to stress over bills or if your career is heading down the right track or if you should be engaged or not, is what makes higher learning appear to be the best time of our lives.
Because once you’re out and you take on a city hundreds of miles away, all of the things you knew in college become all of the things you don’t know. If you ask me where I’ll be a year from now, I’d never be able to answer you. And for a while after I graduated, I hated all of the things I didn’t know.
There were no longer guarantees for my immediate future. There were no promises of housing and the comfort of the classroom never translated into an office. There wasn’t a sea of like-minded and similar-in-age people constantly surrounding me and the pool of dating options took a dive into deep diversity. There was no telling if the job I accepted would be the best move for me or if packing up all that I could into a few suitcases and taking a bite out of the Big Apple (or having it bite me) would be the start or the end of me. And while the majority of my classmates were heading (or planning to) down the aisle, I was ending a relationship and standing alone, without a friend, without a clue of where my life would go.
But, the older I get and the more comfortable I find myself in my own skin – I realize it’s the things I don’t know, the plans I can’t make, the questions I can’t answer – that ironically, make me the happiest. Dwelling in possibility opens up far more windows of opportunity than remaining in comfort. College may start the process of becoming an adult, but until you leave campus – you haven’t a clue about what living is actually about. More importantly, you don’t know who you really are yet or had the chance to define who you want to be – today or tomorrow.
And for now, the things I don’t know outweigh the things I do. One phone call, one offer from an unnamed source, one chance encounter in the middle of a city street or one email, one impossibility that evolves into a possibility, one opening in an international office, one impossible to pass up apartment, or one view on one page from one influential person – could change everything I know.
And it is the realization that everything, love and whatnot, is completely transitional, utterly temporary, and constantly in progression from one thing to another, that I realize the best days of my life were not years ago in college or even today – but rather, they on their way. They are in places, in people, in articles, in books, in magazines, in cities, in travels, in experiences, in trains, planes, and automobiles, in runs, in coffees, in embraces, in romantic escapes, in the laughter of children, in the growth of gray hairs, in all of the things – I’ve yet to experience.
When will I know I’ve reached the pivotal period where everything is just so, feels just right, and goes just as I hoped it would? I don’t know. And really, I doubt I ever will.