Photo by Sundai Johnson
This time two years ago, I was breathing a sigh of relief. The end of my freshman year was nearing and I had somehow made it through. I had spent the Saturdays of that hot fall sweating in the bleachers of the Michigan stadium, hailing to the victors with my fellow peers. Sitting crossed legged on my roommate’s bed with pretzels and nutella and our friends, I whined and pouted to them about boys and crushes that seemed so much bigger then than they do now. I had sat in that same position and cried. I had taken classes I loved, classes I hated, joined organizations, and started to kind of figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I had come to grips with the fact that for the next three years and maybe even after that, I’d be kind of figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, because sometimes the only thing I could be 100% sure of was that South U pizza tasted better at 2 am. I had entered my freshman year seventeen years young, nervous and anxious and a little afraid in the best ways, and I was leaving starting to resemble something close to what an adult might look like. On the eve of my senior year, with nostalgia and memories lurking in every song and every photo, I’ve realized that though I’ve (thankfully) grown so much, that girl isn’t too far gone.
Sometimes I still feel seventeen and afraid. Sometimes I feel less like an adult and more like a child pretending to do grown-up things. But then there are those moments of complete clarity. The moments when I can see the parts of my life fitting together like a puzzle and it’s harmonious. Amidst the doubt, it is those moments that make it all worthwhile. As we prepare for job applications and graduate school and trying to figure out what “life after college” even means, let us not allow fear of what the future might hold to steal our present or our excitement for what’s to come.
I have never been a fan the phrase “college years are the best years of your life” because there is still so much life that follows. That saying gives the false illusion that we have nothing else to look forward to when we have everything to look forward to. The rest of our lives will be gifts, and I don’t want to undermine the years to come by believing that these are the only years I’ll be happy and free. These are simply the only years that I’ll be young and 20. They are important because this is a time that will help shape my future, but I refuse to believe they’re the end of great living. Honestly, sometimes college years can be quite horrible and challenging and feel like the worst ones yet. I am not suggesting that these young years are not great (they are), but I think a huge part of that greatness lies in the truth that they begin to teach us. Life is a thing that happens whether we are prepared for it or not. Time moves forward completely out of our control. Life is about moving with it and learning how to make the most of those minutes that will escape us—that will slip right through our fingertips and past our eyes before we even have time to catch them and blink.
As I near the end of my junior year, I’m going to take pride in the fact that I don’t have it all figured out because I’m twenty and I’m not supposed to. I’ll start thinking about senior year and graduate school applications and jobs and real life, but I’m also still going to sit cross-legged on my roommate’s bed with pretzels and nutella and our friends and whine and pout to them about how those boys are now kind of men and those crushes are more like love and how people we know are getting engaged because change happens. I’ll be comforted by the fact that sometimes, even still, the only thing I can be 100% sure of, is that South U Pizza tastes better at 2 am, and that is absolutely okay.