Wednesday, May 11, 2011

13 Things College Has Taught Me

I got back to Massapequa last night. I unloaded my entire dorm room into the garage, and I'm here for three months. Freshman year was one huge kick to the ass, and I've learned way more in ten months somewhere else than I had in eighteen years here. Here's a list of the thirteen most important: 

1). Fun-tak is not fucking fun. College is badass because you're given an entirely empty room--nothing but blank walls, gender-neutral furniture, and a mattress that just might be stuffed with sand and crumpled magazine pages--and you can do whatever the hell you want with it. Now this isn't like when you redecorated your bedroom in third grade, because back in third grade, you liked things that were only cool for two months, like airplanes and dolphins. When everyone realized that cars were far more accessible  and dolphins weren't smart enough to keep themselves out of fishing nets, you were screwed. Now, however, you're an adult. Your interests are pretty much set in stone, and you're given the liberty of expressing yourself in a room that your parents will rarely see. For boys, this means half-naked posters of chicks with beer. For girls, this means motivational posters like "Dream" and "Be Yourself" and "Use Condoms." Either way, you're going to need some type of wall-adhesive. Fun-Tak is to Sheetrock what hydrofluoric acid is to your flesh. This shit eats through the paint, leaves blue stains, and just plain does not come off. Use tape. Tape everything. Hang things with dental floss. I don't care. Just do not use Fun-Tak. Ever. For anything. 

2). Procrastination ruins your life: This statement is not original, nor is it news to anyone. We've been learning this since elementary school, but no one ever thinks twice about pulling a project out of their ass the night before its due. Procrastination worked fine for me all throughout high school, so I figured college would be the same thing. It's seriously not. When there's a thousand-some-odd barely-legal kids living within such close proximities, there's always going to be those friends throwing snowballs at your window tempting you with promises of forts and inappropriate R-rated ice-sculptures, and there's always going to be that reckless jackass offering to deliver shots of vodka to your room in a sketchy backpack. If you're stuck doing a paper because it's due the next morning, you simply cannot partake. If you get it done as soon as it's assigned, however, you never have to feel guilty about molding genitalia out of snow. I'm not simply telling you to be responsible. I'm telling you to be responsible so you can be irresponsible later. 

3). Stop comparing school to home: If there's any one thing that has made itself painfully apparent during my freshman year, it is that Pennsylvania is not New York. New York is not Pennsylvania. The two are not even remotely similar. The people are not even remotely similar. It is a different planet. My first semester there, I was miserable. People were actually polite and I was forced to question their motives. People did everything like there was all the time in the world. People were seemingly okay with the fact that much of Collegeville's population was comprised of cows and other assorted farm animals. People were even seemingly okay with the fact that someone named said town 'Collegeville.' My high school is huge; my college is barely existent. My friends at home are metal-heads; my friends at school are Asians. I went to ska shows in New York; I went to WaWa in Pennsylvania. I was constantly trying to mesh the two together, to find some sort of balance or middle-ground, and it took me almost six months to realize that they are just not comparable. I could never be happy if I was constantly thinking about what I missed back home, so it's best to just take them both for what they are, to act as though you've got two separate lives, and to be content with the one that's in front of you. 

4). Do not forget your roots:  Even though I've placed PA and NY into two entirely different categories, that does not mean that I forgot where I came from. I'm always going to be vulgar and impatient. I'm always going to get shit for the way I say 'coffee,' 'water,' and 'radiator.' The Yankees are still superior to every team ever. I still like when tap water tastes like chemicals and people refer to sandwiches as 'sandwiches,' not goddamn hoagies. And when everyone from all over the place is tossed into the same middle-of-nowhere town, those are the kinds of things that stick out. You're better off just embracing the traits that cause the most friction, because those are the things that make people interesting in the first place.

5). Your enemies do not have to be your enemies: Do not get the wrong idea here. I love fighting with people. It's one of the most enjoyable things I can think of. Verbally ripping someone to shreds is probably the most satisfying thing ever. But there comes a point where you're just sick of hating someone, and you can't escape them, and all it does is just weigh you down. The state of your mood depends on whether or not you're stuck in their presence, and it's just a shitty time all around. In all honesty, I'm stubborn as shit, and this was the toughest thing for me to do: Just let it go. Every single person on the face of this earth--I don't care who they are unless it's Bob Saget--has some kind of redeeming qualities. Focus on those, and just make peace until you can fully and entirely separate yourself. It's just a lot of weight off your shoulders. 

6). Life is not reliable: In the span of a month, I lost one of my closest friends, I lost someone who's been by me my entire life, and I came exceptionally close to losing the one person whom I need more than anyone. And at the same time, I'm better for having experienced all three. I'm learning that the things you have right now may be pulled out from under you the very next second, because nothing is ever permanent. Appreciate the people you have around you, and let them know that you appreciate them. Most importantly, never, ever let stupid shit get in the way, because more often than not, we don't get second chances. 

7). Crying is liberating: On a similar note, when the shit hits the fan and there's nothing you can do about it, go cry somewhere. Go to a baseball field and bawl your eyes out and rip up grass or something. Throw a temper-tantrum like a little kid in a supermarket who really fucking wants that colorful name-brand cereal. I know it sounds like a pansy thing to do, but in all honesty, you just feel better. Your heads clearer. You can actually think. You can actually sleep. 

8). Befriend your RA: I'm serious about this one. It just may be the smartest thing you ever do. Think about it: Your RA is the person who has the ability to get you in trouble. It's the person who knows all the rules, but also how to successfully break them. It's the person whose room is most-likely huge, and probably pretty close to yours. Not only did I receive endless vacuum privileges, I also 

  • was permitted to stay in her room when she was not present
  • learned of loopholes and how to accurately manipulate them
  • adopted her old shoes/clothes/bags
  • missed hall meetings without [much] consequence 
  • accompanied her to parties/got to meet some really awesome kids
  • had someone credible on my side while fighting with people
  • got to feel badass when I gave someone of authority the middle finger
9). People have no shame: so don't exhaust yourself trying to judge them. Girls will wear dresses that wouldn't effectively cover a toddler. Couples will dry hump against walls in perfectly-lit rooms. People will throw up on you. College typically translates to "I do not care about the consequences of this action," so quit being surprised. No one really cares if you disapprove, anyway. 

10). Routine is key: The best way to feel at home somewhere that's not home is to find a routine and stick to it. Find friends who are always reliable, find a spot to hang out/study, and find a cyclical and balanced schedule of homework and hackysack/stumbleupon/guitar. The faster you establish some kind of drill, the faster you can feel like you belong there. 

11). Television makes you socially retarded: Self explanatory.

12). Move-in day is the worst day ever. Move-out day is not: Move-in day is hot and sweaty and gross and there's stairs and countless things to carry, and then your parents leave you there and you have no friends and you do your best to unpack everything you own and then you just sit on your bed and reflect on how much your life sucks right now. You spend a year getting acquainted with classes, professors, friends, and yourself, and somewhere down the line, things cease sucking so hard. By move-out day, you've learned how to efficiently pack up your things in neat, rectangular cases, so everything fits like Tetris in your car. You've learned everyone's name in your hall, and it's way less lonely while everyone's stuff is waiting in the hallway. Most importantly, you've got people to say goodbye to, and things to look forward to, and a Neil and a Michelle and a Jong and a Kelsey and a Steve to help you move your whole dorm out to the parking lot. 

13). Going away is the best thing you'll ever do: Not only does it give you a fresh perspective on things and a new panorama to look at, it makes you appreciate the people and places you left behind. It tosses you into an experience and that's it--you're stuck there, so you've got no choice but to make progress. You've got no choice but to change your habits and yourself. It makes you realize that the world is nowhere near as small as you thought it was, and the problems you always thought were big are infinitesimal in comparison. You realize that no one's got it figured out any more than you do, and the best thing you can do is try to experience everything that gets thrown in your general direction. Also, curfews are non-existent and stuff. 

No comments:

Post a Comment