What Four Years of College Taught Me
Channeling my inner Elle Woods by reminiscing the words “We Did It,” but well, we did it! With one, maybe two, contemplated drop-outs later, I just received my four year bachelor’s degree. And well, holy shit. I thought I’d never see the day.
I’ll be honest, I spent many days here killing myself with homesickness. A few months had passed and I really couldn’t see myself surviving after one year. Reluctantly persevering, the second year mark of college was slowly approaching and I had hesitantly convinced myself I’d be happy with simply a two-year associates degree. Ah, but you see, I wouldn't have been. I wouldn’t have been happy admitting defeat. Admitting that I couldn't do it. Not that I couldn't do it, but more that I didn’t want to do it. Not only did I not want to admit it to others, but I didn’t want to admit it to myself either. Isn’t that sad? I hate that I cared so much. That’s really the problem with perfectionism. It is nothing but a disguised, underpinning desire to succeed in everything. An obsession with finishing everything you start, and a destructive fear of never being good enough. A self-inflicted pressure bestowed on oneself to excel at everything. Nothing is a trial run. It is everything, or nothing. So I said to myself, what’s another two years?
As my second year approached, I had made some very convincing promises to myself - that I’d do everything I could in making the most of it. Honestly, it wasn’t what I was studying that I didn’t like. I knew I had chosen the right career path and this university was going to get me there. It was my disorientated adaption of culture shock, and the thousands of miles I was away from everything I knew, and deeply missed. It was all making me feel somewhat empty inside. I was lonely. I was lonely in a city with millions of people. Who would have guessed such a thing? New York is unique in that way. It makes you feel things that don't exactly make sense.
I guess you could say I didn't exactly have the most stereotypical, cliché, American college experience. What differentiates a student in a New York City college from those huge university campuses with frat parties and red plastic beer pong cups seen in Hollywood movies is that, well, it’s New York. And New York is very different than what you’ll find around the rest of country. New York is full of preoccupied workaholics, obsessive interns, Upper East Side socialites, and overly expensive alcoholic beverages. Where my once ambitious self overwhelmed my physical being, it soon became questioned with a slight sense of uncertainty. An uncertainty warped with insecurity that came about when I found myself alone in a skyscraper city with big executives carrying expensive leather briefcases, and people doing much bigger things than me. Where these anticipated expectations I had of cool American college house parties and a #girlsquad like the ones I had just left, soon became frantic deadlines, pressure to spend money on designer product, and acquaintances that had already began their own branded company. When all that didn't happen for me within the first two weeks of college, I kinda freaked.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm about my social life of my college years, I am incredibly proud I didn’t give up. Where the college socially lacked my expectations speculated around endless partying, it overwhelms your résumé on opportunity. I guess that’s really the point in college, right? Although I am overly exhausted with even the sight of a single textbook, I can’t possibly be the only one freaking out just a little about graduating, right? Isn’t adulting like, hard? There is no more dozing away in class and half-assing your homework. For our entire lives, up until this moment, there has been pretty much a set criteria on your foreseeable future calendar. Even not registering for the upcoming Fall semester gave me all sorts of quivering palpitations. Suddenly, there are no required courses left for you to do. You’re questioning when you did them all, and anxiously wondering where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing six months from now.
While working pretty much full-time during my college years, I guess I excused the “making the most of it” phase with overemphasizing and overusing the word busy. When I wasn’t working, I was excusing sleep by catching-up with last-minute assignments. Drained and completely burnt-out, I had always been envious of those having the luxury of being able to catch-up with a friend during lunch, or those being able to sleep past 7am. Every proposed meet-up was pardoned with “Sorry I can’t, I’m busy.” Many might not be able to relate, but I guess that was just the culture of my university. Each had a demanding internship, their own business at the age of twenty-two, or worked exhausting retail hours. Nobody had time, and everyone had busy ingrained on their foreheads. Transitioning into a career might not pose so difficult after all.
There is a paralyzing pressure and an overwhelming panic revolved around making the most out of college. But why? Having Happy Hour cocktails post-work without worrying about mindlessly reading a textbook an hour later resonates with me on a much larger scale. Aside from being incredibly grateful about what this university has done for me, I’m much more focused on what opportunities I’ll confidently pursue because of it - rather than commemorating what I’ll miss. Regardless, if you’re devastated about finishing college, or couldn't be happier, there is so much more exciting prospects orbiting around our future existence. You’re still a twenty-something, you still look good. Just relax, and give yourself a break. Celebrate graduating as a new beginning, a fresh start, and a chance to drown yourself in one too many Cosmopolitans. You earned it. Congratulations to all my fellow classmates, we killed it. Now, this is where the fun begins!