A few weeks ago I attended an event for work at my alma mater, the University of Oregon. It was the first time I’d been back there for non-football related reasons since 2012. The check-in staff enthusiastically gave me a little “Alumni” ribbon when I mentioned that I was a graduate. Everyone kept asking me: “How is it to be back?!” And I answered, “Uh…great!” But secretly, I just kept thinking, “All these kids make me feel SO OLD.”
As I walked around campus on a busy Thursday, I was filled with nostalgia. I had expected to traipse those walkways five years later a “completely different person,” as one always hopes herself will be five years in the future. But had I really changed that much? I had cut my hair. I had gotten married. I had appeared on an Albanian talk show next to a “topless DJ.” But I was still myself: mostly fun to be around but with a grumpy/sarcastic edge, highly anxious, easily irritated, and a gigantic nerd. It was kind of disappointing: I was not the sexy, cool human rights attorney (by day, and Wonder Woman by night)–or whatever vague, unreasonable career I imagined for myself at the time–that I envisioned as an undergrad.
Then I realized, as I ruminated on specific memories of myself, that quite a bit had changed—it was just more subtle than dropping 20% of my body fat or earning huge paychecks or saving the world. There were a lot of convictions I held from ages 18-22 that I was just plain wrong about. So, I wrote some of them down. They make me laugh today.
Things I believed when I was in college:
- You should study whatever you’re passionate about and not worry about money or career prospects.
- Waking up before 10:00 is impossible.
- Law school sounds like a good idea.
- I’ll never move back to my hometown—it’s the worst.
- People who have made different life decisions than I have are all dumb.
- I am “poor.”
- I am “busy.”
- I’m young. I can eat whatever I want!
- I’ll go on a date with anyone even if I’m not interested in them, because I’ll be young forever and have all the time in the world.
- If I’m not going out every weekend, I’m not “living life to the fullest.”
- I’m living on my own! I’m independent!
- I don’t need help.
- What’s “office hours”?
- I think I’ll do Peace Corps and subsequently become a hero.
- I’m never going to live with my parents again.
- I had one bad relationship so I’m never getting married.
- It’s easier to just be polite to my roommates and avoid conflict with them, even if they are horrible to me.
- That mold on my walls is probably no big deal.
- Football is definitely super important and I’m spending an appropriate amount of time stressing out about it.
- I don’t have a plan for my life but I don’t need to, because everything will just work itself out.
They say college is the last opportunity you have to make mistakes in life and get away with them. I certainly made mine, but luckily they weren’t that bad, and some of them I’m even glad I made. Thanks, U of O.