I have a set of twin cousins who are starting college pretty much as I type. They have both gone far from home on softball scholarships. One is at the University of Illinois and the other is at the University of Iowa, which are both really far from San Antonio, and honestly pretty far from each other. I can only imagine how exciting and frightening it is for them.
I have no doubts that they will both do amazingly well. They are fantastic athletes, intelligent young women, and will have no trouble taking on the world no matter where they are. I just hope that they take advantage of everything college has to offer them.
It sort of makes me a little nostalgic for my own college experience. I am not really sure if I would qualify as a good role model when it comes to college experiences or not. I mean I didn't graduate. In fact the end of my whole college career ended in a rather ugly state. That whole nasty ending aside, I actually think I had a very successful college experience.
College is, to me, just that. An experience. Going away to school is about learning and growing, but only a fraction of that is what you do in the classroom. Yes I know that the point is to get a degree but if that is all you do in college you are so doing it wrong.
College is like the greatest social experiment ever. It is about meeting people and really meeting yourself. You are on your own, away from your parents for the first time in your life, and yet you are still in a structured and semi safe environment. You are free to make terrible decisions and hopefully not ruin your life while doing it.
I was lucky in the fact that I didn't have to work in college. I had everything paid for, which made things considerably easier. I never had to worry about holding down a job while I went to class. All I had to balance was my classes, my shows, and my social life. That all lead to very little sleep.
I survived my entire first year of college on turkey sandwiches, frosted flakes, cold ravioli, Dr Pepper, and Arbor Mist (or Boones Farm, whatever we could get the upper classmen to buy us). I slept on average 3 hours a night if I was lucky. I made a 3.8 GPA and never missed a single theater party. I was also never not working on a show.
I never socialized with the people in my dorm. They thought I was some sort of scary freak and I thought they were all stuck up. The RA's actually tried to have an intervention with me because they thought I was anti social and on drugs. None of them were theater majors. They just didn't get that my class and show schedule kept me busy for about 16 hours of my day and wearing all black was actually required when I was crewing a show.
I offered my RA a cookie from a care package my grandmother sent me once, and she reacted like I had offered her rat poison. I had to pull one out of the bag and take a bite to prove to her I wasn't trying to kill her. I actually took joy in freaking them all out by not conforming to their fluffy sorority like atmosphere.
I wondered around campus in pajama pants and slippers half the time. Super relaxed was my normal dress code. It was really liberating to be able to dress down all the time. Besides most everyone else was dressing the same way so who cares?
I started branching out socially which is something I had never done before. Anyone who knew me in high school would have been shocked to see me being so social. I think I went to one party while in high school and that was my senior year. I was so wildly uncomfortable that I never wanted to go to a party again. In college I went to my first frat party my first day.
I was making friends left and right. I went to clubs. I went to frat parties. I went to theater parties. I went on camp outs and to bonfires. I crashed on peoples sofas, and floors, and dorm rooms of people I only passingly knew. For the first three months I wasn't even drinking, I was doing all of this dead sober. I was just letting my inhibitions slip away on my own.
I started experimenting with new concepts and ideas that I had always thought to be weird or taboo. I opened myself up to the idea of different lifestyles and refused to exclude any ideas. I began to learn about different religions which had always been an interest of mine that I was too afraid to look at. I found people who shared thoughts with me that I had always been to afraid to express. I opened myself up and found faith that spoke to me the way Christianity had never done for me. I wasn't afraid to admit it finally.
I took road trips with friends. I laid in the pine needles and stared up at the stars. I ran through piles of autumn leaves. I laughed. I kissed boys. I kissed girls. I learned what made good friends and bad friends. I saw more sunrises without having ever been to bed. I pulled all-nighters at Denny's. I dyed my hair strange colors.
I found myself.
It was new and amazing and exciting and one of the best experiences of my life. There were days I was lonely and scared and sat in my dorm room crying and longing for home. There were days when the pressure of it all was too much and all I wanted to do was quit. There were so many times when I felt like I was drowning. There were times when I was miserable.
I would have those moments of despair and then something new and amazing would happen, and I realized something very important. I realized that there were always going to be bad things. There were always going to be days when I felt like I was drowning and completely overwhelmed. I was always going to have days that I wanted to throw the towel in. That was going to be a constant throughout my entire life.
I learned though that the good days would still come. No matter how rough it got, calmer seas would show on the horizon, and I once again would bask in the sun and marvel at the glory of the universe. I wasn't going to sink.
That is what I learned in college. I might not have a slip of paper that makes me more marketable to jobs, but I am alright with that. I came away with a knowledge and a wealth of experiences that made me more marketable to life.
I know that my family doesn't always understand. I know that they think that I went in one person and came out another, but I disagree. I went in like a caterpillar and came out a butterfly. I was always a butterfly on the inside, I just had to get there.
That is what I hope for my cousins. I hope that they can get the slip of paper too, but more than that I hope they find what I found. I hope that they find themselves. I hope that they take every opportunity and are not afraid to open themselves up to anything and everything. I don't know what conclusions they will come to, or what sort of butterflies they will be, but I am certain they will be brilliant and happy no matter what.