Picture this: You’re a young man, say seventeen, a little young to be doing this, but still, you excitedly drive with your parents over to… Evergreen, I think? Yeah… Evergreen for move-in day. You bring your belongings to what you think is your room, assisted by who you think are your student government but probably aren’t, and set up the side of the room you think your 3rd best friend from high school won’t want when he moves in in about 30 minutes. You have a great last breakfast at Dawn to Dusk Cafe with your parents (“last breakfast for only a few months”, you repeatedly assure your mother, now crying from nostalgic joy over her waffles), and head back to your room. You experience arguably the most emotionally intense moment of your life as all three of you cry whilst hugging goodbye.
So, with your friend arrived, your parents gone, and your entire future tangibly presented in front of you, you have one, succinct thought to yourself:
“Wow, this… kinda… sucks.”
I also couldn’t believe I thought this. This school was my “Goldilocks,” giving me copious amounts of financial aid and sitting in a perfect location to be close to friends and family, and yet here I was, doubting my decision before classes even start, before I had even seen any of the friends I had made at orientation.
But, I mean, it’s kind of true, right? In a subtle, backwards way, college does, indeed, suck. Not Rowan in particular, mind you, it’s a conceptually negative experience as a whole. In most cases, you are circumstantially forced to move between one to several hundred miles away from your family and friends who you’ve grown close to over eighteen years, thrusting yourself in the throes of decades of debt to receive an education in something you “kind of” want to do later in life, all the while enduring the most intense and, at times, cruelly substantial academic course load of your life with virtually no preparation for such an experience. On top of this, there is no guarantee you will even succeed. In fact, it’s more likely for you not to succeed.
So… why? Why are we doing this? Well, because, this is it.
I mean, this really is “it.” This is the way to secure a good future for yourself. The “only” way. And not just four year schools, trade schools, community colleges, whatever, some kind of formal education is pretty much required to navigate the modern world. And, yes, there’s the military, but many people enlist because, in a lot of cases, they’ll pay for your education.
We can look to all of the rappers we listen to and actors we watch and extract joy and hope from their rags-to-riches, “drop-everything-and-move-to-Los-Angeles-to-become-a-screenwriter” stories, but at the end of the day, they don’t help us sleep at night. We can’t really rely on “shotgun careers,” so to speak.
This should be a time for celebration, but I can’t help but feel sort of small. I’m sure many of us were the big fish in the small pond back in high school, but now, we’re still the big fish, but we’re all the big fish, in the pond that seems to keep getting bigger as we notice entire buildings that we didn’t before (I know this is not even a remotely relatable experience, but James Hall scared the hell out of me when I turned a corner the other day).
We’re here. We made it.
As one Dr. Stephen Strange put it, “We’re in the endgame now.” We all worked hard to get here and are going to work even harder to stay, and that should be exciting, but it just feels… natural. Like we always belonged here, like this isn’t a challenge so much as it is a natural progression that we knew we would undergo one of these days.
So let’s do it. Simple as that, let’s just do this thing we have to do, and let’s try our best to have fun while doing it.
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