I’ll be the first to admit — I bullshitted my way through college.
The “B.S.” (in Business Administration) that will appear on the commencement program alongside my name and major couldn’t be more aptly placed.
From the moment I’d gotten my first taste of that sweet, sweet independence that every insubordinate teenager stuck in the purgatory of high school longs for, there had always been one question in my head cycling in near-perpetuity: What am I doing?
When I made my first foray into the laundry room in my dorm, ready to kick some ass and champion my adulthood by producing my first ever batch of freshly-scented, clean garments, I ended up with freshly-scented, clean garments that were three-quarters of their original size.
What was I doing?
More times than I’d like to admit, I’ve stumbled into a lecture hall on exam day with the extent of my preparation being a 30-minute scan of the lecture notes on iLearn. Sometimes, that turned out alright. Most of the time, I’d shrug my shoulders and bust out the cliched “Cs get degrees!” as effervescently as I could to mask my irresponsibility.
What was I doing?
In my first few months of college, I quickly lost sight of my goal of meeting new people and experiencing a new place, and instead spent a good portion of my first year clinging to the comfort of any link I could find to back home, no matter how granular it may have been.
What was I doing?
In spite of all this, maybe by some stroke of dumb luck and a bit of hard-headed resilience; here I stand, about a week and a half away from wondering where all that time went, walking across some haphazardly erected stage on a patch of dead grass, having my name called and displayed on a screen for five seconds if I’m lucky, being handed a piece of paper and shaking hands with a guy who wants me to pay more money for this privilege.
At the same time, I’ll walk across that stage the most confident in myself and most proud of myself that I’ve ever been.
I’ll walk across that stage with a clear vision for the future and freshly-scented, clean garments that still fit me, with exam scores that my mom would have put on the refrigerator back in my youth and a handful of people and memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
There’s just something about figuring it all out yourself that provides a boost like no other. Like finding out that it’s not the best idea to dry cotton shirts on high heat, to hit the books for at least a few hours before an exam or to loosen up a little bit and not be scared of new people and experiences.
Maybe it was all just luck, but I like to be an optimist and attribute myself getting through this college mess in one piece to my penchant for just winging it. If there’s anything that these four years taught me, it’s that most of the time, you just have to figure it out on the fly. That was the real learning experience for me.
The college experience is nothing but an ecosystem of controlled chaos — a place where 20,000 young adults can freely roam in unison like a rudderless ship with no destination — spending their days in trying to find what really makes them tick and nights in excessive debauchery. Where every 10 bad decisions are offset by that one good decision. Because, well — shit — nobody else knows what the fuck they’re doing either. So go, join that club, go to that party, change your major three times, take that interesting class or skip that pointless class — everyone else is too busy doing the same thing to notice.
After all, these few years might be the only time where you can run around like a chicken with your head cut off with little consequence and maybe even a bit of recourse. The educational experience in college is a sandbox that stretches much further beyond the books, only if you want it to. The real world waits for no one, and it’s a hell of a lot less forgiving than the buddies that kept you upright on Friday nights or the professor who gave you a deadline extension on that paper because you “had really bad food poisoning” all weekend (of course he knew you were hungover).