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These are not the best years of our lives

By Sophie Newman     3/23/16 8:48pm

As we near graduation season, I can’t help but recall/remember my own high school commencement, where family and friends gathered to bestow flowers, presents and various pieces of college-related advice. I’m willing to bet that if there’s one universal comment at these kind of things, it is this: “College is the best four years of your life."

It makes sense, considering our culture idealizes the college years. But I’m sure any current student who watches “Animal House” or “Legally Blonde” could easily tell you that portrayals of college experiences tend to be oversimplified to either some kind of never-ending bout of drunkenness or a series of brilliant, intellectual revelations. We should only be so lucky.

Don’t get me wrong — college is obviously great. Living with your best friends, fewer family responsibilities, your only job is to learn something, for crying out loud. It’s really a sweet job to have: student.

I’m more concerned that our society is so cynical to believe that nothing better could occur post-graduation. Yes, the job market may be a mess, but there must be more to look forward to than work. I, for one, am excited to have a fully developed brain and more sophisticated tastes in alcohol. Certainly, there will be terrible times ahead too, but let’s not forge our uncharted destinies with visions of millennial gloom.

I’m sure most of us also share the sentiment that college can sometimes be the worst. When you’re crying at night, in some forgotten private study room on the fifth floor of Fondy, I’m sure you’re not thinking, “It just doesn’t get better than this.” Or, when you are eating servery food on a Sunday night in your sex-prohibiting bunk bed, I’m sure you’re not saying, “It’s all downhill from here, folks.”

There is a constant pressure to suck every ounce of fun out of college, because it’s the only chance we will get to have certain experiences. There’s a pressure to seize every available opportunity — scholarships, fellowships, internships — and there’s a pressure to participate in as many social events as possible. While college may be special in terms of the scope of things we can do, there’s no guarantee that these will be the pinnacle of our endeavors.

Let’s not fall victim to a deterministic view of college — that it has to be “the best,” or else. Let our experiences be what they are, and let’s hope that there will be many more good times (and bad times) to come. I’m not too proud to quote the Indigo Girls on this one: “The less I seek the source for some definitive/the closer I am to fine.” If you ask me, that is the piece of advice we should be handing out like cake to recent graduates.

So, don’t worry if you’re not having the time of your life right now. Or, maybe you are. Either way, I wouldn’t sweat it — good times lie ahead too.

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