I’ve been in an extremely nostalgic mood lately. Sometimes it just happens. You’re going through the motions of daily life and it just hits you out of nowhere. In particular I’ve been in a very specific routine for the past few weeks and that routine is pretty boring. One day seems to bleed into the next and honestly it gets tiring and old. When this happens I tend to think about my college experience. At no time in my life was I as “free” and busy as I was in college.
Sure it was “routine” but not nearly in the same kind of way life is today. Today I have a wife and two sons. I work from home. I have a pretty set schedule and at times it feels like a television rerun episode. Back in college the “routine” was 100 times more exciting. While today’s routine is editing articles from x time to x time, in college it was which bar or function I would go to on which day at the same time each day.
The point is that even though it was a “routine” something unexpected and exciting would always have a chance at happening during each “routine” act. Today it’s a whole lot more predictable. But one of the things I appreciate most about my experience back then was the unexpected learning experience I had.
It wasn’t what I thought it would be
College turned out to be everything I hoped it would be and more. But it certainly wasn’t what I envisioned it to be. When I look back on my college years it was 100 times more of an “experience” than it was an academic learning time in my life. Honestly I couldn’t tell you the name of one of my professors. I don’t even remember actually being in class despite pretty much never missing a class. Maybe it’s just because I have a bad memory. I don’t know. But I don’t think that’s it.
Because frankly I can remember so many other things about my days at Tulane University. I remember every Mardi Gras. I remember every single fraternity party. I remember so many amazing times I had with all of my friends. I remember getting haircuts for Christ’s sake. I even remember particular walks I took. These memories are as vivid as my own reality is today.
What I remember is that college was a time for a Long Island Jewish kid to live in the South, join a Southern fraternity, and be exposed to a culture and time I will never be exposed to again. It was a time for me to be around people I’ll likely never be around again. It was a time where I got into the kind of trouble I’ll never get into again. It was a time for me to be in the kinds of relationships I’ll never be in again. It was a time I learned independence. It was a time I learned how to multi-task, manage my time, manage “people” and really manage my own life.
It had almost nothing to do with academics.
And that’s OK
Everyone has their own kind of experience when it comes to college. Some students pay their way through college and specifically go to get a degree that directly correlates to all of their future economic and cultural prospects. Some go into college with a very specific plan. I did not.
I was one of the lucky ones in that my folks paid my tuition and essentially paid my way through that entire 4 years. I was lucky because it was handed to me. But I was also lucky because it was probably one of the best “life” experiences I ever had. College got me a degree but it certainly didn’t get me a job. It certainly didn’t prepare me for the career I have now. But it prepared me for the life I have now and that to me was infinitely more valuable.
Getting value is getting value, look for it
The point I’m trying to make here is that there was practically no more a valuable time in my life than college. And it had absolutely nothing to do with my degree. I went into college thinking I’d study something, get a degree, and get a job having to do with what I studied. I left college having far and away the best cultural and life experience a person could ask for. Just because you go into something with a particular expectation, as long as you get something valuable out of it, that’s what matters. That’s what counts. That’s what you should care about.