It’s not all rainbows and keg stands: the truth about college

“College is the best time of your life.”

I repeat this sentiment over and over again to myself as I cry silently in one of the communal bathroom shower stalls. Even my shower shoes look sad. I wrap my arms tightly around myself and sway in a slow hug. I hear a toilet flush and know my cries must be quiet, refrained, non-existent. The warm water hits my face and mingles with the salty tears. I know I can’t stay in here forever but when I leave I won’t be alone.

My room is full of three other girls, all leading ladies in their own theater of life. We step on each other’s toes as we dance around from class to class, studying, homework, boys. Nobody is ever in a good mood. And if, on the off chance I am happy, someone else will be upset, crying, on the phone with their ex boyfriend for the 23rd time. I’m not sure people are meant to live together like this.

“You’ll make your best friends in college.”

I repeat to myself as I get my dinner wrapped up and placed in a bag so I can eat it alone in the room. I don’t mind dining alone, but a conversation can be nice too. It’s not like I don’t have friends, or I am incapable of making them. We are all on our own paths, merely passing through this stage in life and all these different experiences are hard to align. I have friends. Best friends. One is in a few states over, in a different time zone. We talk every day, but I haven’t seen her face in months. Another friend was here with me for a while, but her story took her across the country. How can I find solace in these relationships that aren’t grounded in space? To find someone who laughs at the same dumb things you do and wants to stay up late talking about poetry and space. What about my best girl who’s friendship I have had since kindergarten? Does a lifetime of memories go out the window when we go to different schools? When I think about my people, they are almost everywhere but where I am. And I am lonely.

“I wish I was in college again.”

I repeat to myself after a phone call with my parents. Back to hours of studying and reading, preparing for tests that also seem to measure my self worth. Perfection is impossible but they antagonize us with the Dean’s list and 4.0’s.

I lay in my small bed at night, listening to doors shut and muted conversations in the hallway as I try to fall asleep. All the messages begin to overwhelm my brain.

“Be young and free!” “Be safe and smart.”

“Travel while you can.” “Save money.”

“Go to class.” “Have fun and live a little.”

“You don’t need a man.” “Have you found a boyfriend yet?”

“Say yes to things.” “Say no to drugs.”

“Think about your future.” “Be present.”

“Friends are most important.” “Learn to be independent.”

“Don’t worry so much.” “Have a plan for the future.”

“Enjoy your freedom.” “Call your mom.”

“Do what you love.” “Make some money.”

The mixed messages keep me up at night. I don’t know how to be an adult but I know I’m not a kid either. College is a lot of things but rainbows and keg stands aren’t one of them. Amongst all the noise, all the different ideas about how to live life and what it means to be happy, I have to find my own. Maybe that means college isn’t the best time of my life. Maybe that means the clichés aren’t actually true. Maybe that means that it is up to me to decide. Maybe 50, with a yard and a dog, isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be.

I would like to dispel the myth that college is the absolutely, without a doubt, the most rocking time ever. It isn’t all parties and cool new friends. It is hard work and it is also being uncomfortable. It is being lonely and missing home without wanting to be there. It is a lack of consistency. It is feeling out of place, wondering if what you are doing is the right thing. We are doing a disservice by continuing this fable that college is like some amazing four-year vacation in the Bahamas. Young people are struggling and are trying to understand where they fit in to this world.

I want to talk about it. Honestly. I want to talk about the good and the bad. Maybe then it won’t all be so isolating. Maybe then I won’t feel like the odd woman out when I daydream about my life past college. Maybe others feel this way too. We could start a club. “The best years of our lives Club.” We would meet annually.

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