College Isn't What You Expected? That's Okay

We’re all familiar with the expression: “college will be the best years of your life.” This can be the case for many; however, there are still many others for whom this cliché does not ring true. This article is for those of you who, despite being enrolled in college, are not having the “time of your life” that people claimed you would. While there are many aspects of my college experience thus far that I have enjoyed, I take issue with the fact that, for various reasons, my expectations for college were unrealistically high, and would like to point out the consequences of the assumption that four years of one’s life will be the pinnacle of one’s existence.

Growing up in a culture surrounded by media that boasts how fantastic and wonderful and exciting and “absolutely life-changing” one’s college experience is, it’s hard not to develop a certain standard for your own. Sure, college is a great time of growth for many, an opportunity to take risks, to try new things, to explore different interests, meet new people. And that is great for those people! But some of us are left looking around a campus that looks slightly less glossy in real life than it did in the pamphlet, shaking our heads, wondering what the f*ck we got ourselves into.

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There’s a reason for this. Not everyone is destined to have an amazing time at college. Not everyone is ready to strike out on their own the minute they turn eighteen. There are approximately eight weeks between graduation and the start of fall term, and somehow those eight weeks are supposed to magically turn us into completely independent, confident, adventurous adults ready for life in a new city/state/country?! I think not. That’s not how life works.

Like I said, some people do make that transition, but that is because they are ready for it. Others are not. The problem is that we expect that we will be, because we go through life with the expectation that, come the end of high school, we’ll shed our adolescent skins and undergo some sort of impossible metamorphosis, becoming the better version of our previous selves, our “college selves.” In reality, we’re only eight weeks older, perhaps an inch or two taller if we’re lucky, and really not that much wiser. More scared, maybe. But more or less the same person we were in high school when we threw that cap into the air two months ago.

We anticipate that our college experience will be life-changing, and of course it can be. But if we want to enjoy our four years, it is important to let go of the notion that it must be amazing, that it has to be full of adventure, and excitement, and “wanderlust” or whatever other bullsh*t platitudes they feed us. Of course, we’d all love to challenge ourselves, to step out of our comfort zone to some degree. But some of us more than others are ready for a leap, and some of us only manage to creep out, dipping our toes in first to see how it feels. That is okay.

Don’t beat yourself up if you blew off a party to stay in and binge-watch a show you’ve already watched twice through. Don’t worry about it if you’d rather stay local then study abroad in some beautiful yet foreign country. And if you didn’t attend a million club meetings the first few weeks of school, you’re going to be alright-the free pizza and horribly awkward icebreakers are not that much more enriching to your quality of life, I can assure you.

It’s scary to feel like you’re the only one not having the ideal college experience that your parents’ friends are always raving about. It’s isolating to wonder whether you’re doing something wrong, whether it’s the school or whether it’s you that’s making life seem eerily normal, and not as mind-blowingly awesome as you’d anticipated. It could be both, or it could be neither, but it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you live life the way you want to, and if that means going out of your way to replicate the blueprint for “the best four years,” do it; if that means living life as you usually would, except at a new school, that’s alright, too. I didn’t know that it was alright, and I wish I had. So I’m telling you-it is fine not to be jumping up and down over how awesome college is. We can’t all be that enthusiastic.

If someone told you you were about to taste the most amazing, magnificent, delectable piece of chocolate cake you had ever had the pleasure of experiencing, you’d probably have pretty high expectations. That cake had better be damn delicious. What if you took a bite, and it was just your average, if slightly dry, piece of cake? You’d be disappointed. Of course you would be. It’s not the cake’s fault that it’s utterly mediocre; it’s just a piece of cake. It’s not your fault, either; all you did was take a bite.

And that’s all you can do. Take a bite, see how it tastes, and if it’s fantastic, awesome. If not, meh. You have the rest of your life to live. There will be other metaphorical pieces of cake, hopefully better than the one you just tried. But you did try and you should give yourself credit for that.

Will these be the “best four years” of our lives? Maybe. Maybe not.

I for one, certainly hope not. Image via