Posted: April 19, 2010 (12:37 AM)
As of today, I graduate in less than a month. My commencement date is May 17th. It's been five years, ten long semesters.
When I tell people this, they congratulate me. They automatically perceive it as a joyful happening and sometimes even vicariously extend their own happiness.
It is a milestone to be sure. A Bachelor's degree will put me in a higher stratum of society. Because college has become the daily routine of my life, I have also become somewhat desensitized to the fact that I am getting my degree from the most prestigious public university in the world, and one of the most prestigious universities overall. This too will offer me an advantage over other people - possibly opening doors that even my intelligence and knowledge won't - one that I am not sure I truly deserve.
But what really occupies my thoughts as of late is a reflection of the time I've spent here. College hasn't been everything I expected, wanted, or hoped. There are things I wish I had done but didn't and things I did that I wish I hadn't.
I wish I had involved myself in student groups earlier on than I did. In my first year I led a very insular life, my social sphere consisting almost solely of my dorm floor. I wish had done some kind of academic thing that I could put on my resume. Despite my prestigious degree, my resume is otherwise going to be very unimpressive. I wish I hadn't lived in the dorms for two years. I wish I had been more consistent about asking girls out, instead of alternating between periods of concerted effort and complete inactivity. I wish I hadn't come dangerously close to flunking out, sinking my GPA so much that it could only be pulled back up so much higher. I wish I had generally been more boldly and consistently outgoing instead of frequently retreating to the comfort of video games and solitude.
Of course, the problem with regret is that you're looking back on an experience with the wisdom you gained from the way it actually happened. My past actions reflected my knowledge, readiness, and maturity at that time. Had I actually done any of those things differently, I might be a very different person today, for better or for worse. So many seemingly trivial and inconsequential events and decisions brought me where I am today, many of which I probably don't even remember.
I don't mean to say that I had a horrible college experience at all. I met a lot of people, I learned a lot, especially outside of the class room, and I was challenged on a daily basis. I opted to lead a very social college life of partying, and in the past three years I have probably consumed more alcohol than most people will in their entire lives. Especially once I moved into the coop, there were more times during college when I said to myself "this really is the life" or "this really makes it all worthwhile" than before college. And I'm a little sad about having to leave it all behind in less than a month.
When I went home for spring break, my father had a computer screensaver with pictures of me (and friends) in high school. I was 17 then; I soon turn 23. Physically, I look almost exactly the same today as I did back then. I literally haven't grown an inch. Figuratively, I have grown...well, an unquantifiable amount, but it's large.
The biggest difference between then and now, is that I used to be almost totally socially retarded. I knew so little of actual people and the real world, and I mostly lived in the exhilarating and romantic fantasies of my video games (some of the Final variety) and books. Today, I consider myself a legitimate, socially functional human being. This, above all else, is what I will take with me from my college experience.
I apologize for yet another long-winded blog entry in which I wax sentimental, but I am about to undergo the biggest change of my life.
Posted: April 19, 2010 (01:44 PM)
So...if that isn't appropriate for a long winded blog, what is?
I found college did teach me some simple things nobody told me I was supposed to know. For me it was nice to get out from the parental sphere even though I realized it was more suffocating than I thought.
It took me a while to realize that some of the positive cliches about college are true, and despite some real disappointments, there was nobody to say "You better appreciate this, young man."
Posted: April 20, 2010 (12:37 AM)
Yeah, no complaints about quality waxing here!
My university years had almost no extra-curricular social content. In retrospect this was obviously because I was going down with anxiety and depression at the time and didn't realise it - I had no idea what was wrong until I got help the year after I graduated.
This doesn't mean those years were wasted or a disaster or anything... I attacked all my work and learning aggressively, while a lot of people slid through. In my degree (BA in communications) it was really a ' you got out of it what you put in' situation, and I put a ton in. It had the best writing class I ever took, I learned all my basic filmmaking and digital editing skills, got a taste of academic writing and advanced reading, and even in the classes with the most bizarre subject matter I chucked in my all.
I am about to tie in to what you (Rad) were saying about regrets. I can hardly believe university is now 14 years behind me. But the meaning of the experience has changed for me totally over that period.
At the time I had a lot of criticism for myself about what I had got out of my degree. Today, it's obvious that what I learned has been tremendously useful to me, and really set me up for a lifetime of pursuing more knowledge and wisdom under one's own steam. It was impossible to anticipate I would ever develop this perspective on it; it just came as I kept on living, and acknowledged that I am a product of every experience I've ever had, good, bad, happy-making or regret worthy. And in that sense nothing is ever truly regret worthy.