As I walked home from the library at 10 p.m. the other night with freezing tears trailing down my cheeks, my head throbbing from a day too heavy for me to hold, and my shattered heart stinging for two months too long, I thought to myself, is this it?
College is supposed to be the best time of my life, yet here I was, spending another walk home crying over not knowing what I want to do with my life, fearful I was falling behind and in the wrong major, dwelling on how college drains us students of money, holding on to the pit of anger and sorrow in my stomach from a broken heart, stressing about exams and assignments that I didn’t want to do, losing all hope for the government to prioritize people over profit, losing all hope in the government in general, feeling doomed about our collapsing environment, missing daily cuddles with my dog, wondering how I could feel so incredibly alone when I attend a school of over 22,000 students, etc., etc.
And in the background was the echoing of the phrase, “College is supposed to be the best years of your life.” But to be honest, most days it feels like I’m gritting my teeth through stress, sorrow and seemingly life-altering decisions. I wondered if I was doing something wrong. Why was everyone else having the time of their lives and I wasn’t? Well as it turns out, I’m not alone in feeling this way after all.
During Parent’s Weekend at UMass, a room full of 25 adults were asked to stand up if college was the best time of their life. Two adults stood up. This is not a rarity. I know several friends who would admit that college has not cracked up to the dream life it’s sometimes percieved to be. College is often a very stressful time for young adults—we are trying to figure out what we want to do with the rest of our lives while trying to figure out who we are.
Most of our schedules are so chock full of academic work and extracurricular activities that we have no room to breathe. Grades can seem career-defining and the pressure placed on students, and which students place on themselves, is usually very high. Pair the academic stresses with the social stresses, and the idea of college being the “best time of your life” seems distant from the truth. And when you’re told it’s supposed to be the best time of your life when you’re having quarter-life crises every other day, you start to wonder: if this is the best time in my life, what is to come? That question rings out all hope that things will get better.
But I’m here to tell you that if college isn’t the best time of your life, it’s okay. There’s not something wrong with you. You’re not alone. And there are ways to make it better.
If you’re not having the time of your life, it’s understandable! Everyone’s college experience is different, and that’s okay. You might be going through a hard time that happened to hit you during your college years. You might be a homebody having difficulty with the adjustment. You might not have found the right friends yet. You might not be involved as much as you want. You might not enjoy drinking and partying. You might be surrounded by people who invalidate having fun without drinking and partying. You might not abide by the typical college student experiences and feel a lack of support. All of these reasons can hinder your college experience and your potential to get the most out of it.
So I write this to help those who aren’t living the high life to accept the fact that college may not be the best time of your life, and to stop putting so much pressure on themselves. Being okay with this fact does not mean you have to continue to be miserable. Just because college might not be the best time of your life doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to make it better! Even just committing to daily self-care like breathing exercises, or planning a fun weekend outing with friends that’ll get you through the week, can help enhance your college experience. For me, getting involved with clubs that foster my interests gives me a feeling of community and accentuate my passion. For weekend plans, I love going on sunset hikes with my friends or getting off campus for dinner and such. I also enjoy doing slam poetry, so I perform and attend poetry slams in Northampton.
These are just some examples of things I do to better my college experience. College may not be the best time in my life, but I have had some incredible memories, grown an extensive amount, and have learned wondrous amounts of valuable information about the world, myself, and others. I think of my college experience as mosaic pieces in shambles. Although the amazing times are sometimes scattered, and the miserable times too daunting, all experiences help me grow, and play equal parts in strengthening my character and journey overall. And as long as we get up everyday, give our best, be ourselves, and keep going in the direction of our dreams, these pieces will continue to develop, and someday they will fit together. In that case, it’s okay if college hasn’t been the best time of our lives because it is giving us the tools to go out and live the best life we can, and that is extremely valuable.
Here’s a picture of me at the top of a mountain for a sunset hike with my friends. It was one of the best memories I’ve had at college.
Photos courtesy of the author.