The Most Important Things I Learned In College

I did it! I’m a college graduate! The last few weeks I’ve been exceedingly busy, but I’ve been really wondering what it is that college has taught me. Aside from all the literal bullshit I learned and regrettably retained from Honors Philosophy freshman year, I realized I’ve come out of the past three and a half years with some pretty valuable life lessons. Here they are in a list, in kind of specific order but not totally. (More on how I feel about graduating when it actually starts to sink in…)

  1. “90% of life is just showing up.”

    Woody Allen’s a pretty brilliant guy in the field of filmmaking, but nothing that has ever been said to me resonates more than this quotation by him.  I was something just short of a bonafide truant throughout high school. I rarely went to school due to “legitimate sickness” and I still did remarkably well. My 9th grade teacher used to tease the class that I could be “out on the corner smoking crack” and still come to class and break the curve on the exam. I was just a smart kid. That ended in college. I had to start actually showing up to class. I’ve also learned, both as a student and as a TA, that a professor is exponentially more sympathetic to the plight of a student who gives them three hours a week regularly. I imagine the same is true of the professional world. I’m not positive, though. I’ll let you know when I get there. Honestly, just get out of bed and be there. A lot of time, you won’t have to do much more than that. Looking like you care is a good look.

  2. Missing someone who left voluntarily is a waste of important feelings and energy.

    This year I lost both my grandparents and a boyfriend who I thought was gonna be around for quite a while. I will tell you first hand: missing someone is exhausting. Here’s the difference between those two different levels of loss, though. My grandparents both passed away. They were taken from me. I do, with every fiber of my being, believe it was their time to go. They had both been sick and I was almost relieved to see them no longer suffering. But, months later and I assume it will be this way forever, I think of them at least once a day and I actively miss them. I’m sure it will get less painful in time and I’ll remember them and be happy, but I will always miss them. Sometimes I catch myself planning on going to visit my grandma in the hospital on my way home from afternoon classes and then I have to remind myself she’s not there. It’s heart breaking every single time. Had they had the option, they would’ve never left me and I know that. My ex-boyfriend left by choice. I don’t fault him for his choice because he felt it was what was right for him. I can’t hold a grudge against him for living his life as he saw best. Obviously these two losses are on opposite sides of the tragedy spectrum. But for a while, I was missing him the same way I was missing my grandparents until that idea struck me as absolutely absurd. My grandparents have left this earth forever by necessity and old age. My ex boyfriend is at some bar in queens, lovin’ life, perfectly fine without me because that’s where he wants to be. Why am I mourning our relationship?
    A lot of people came in and out of my life in the last four years. At some point, I had to accept that there wasn’t enough room for everyone and it would be the important people who stuck around. I was impacted by every last one of them in one way or another, but like I said, missing someone is exhausting. It’s an emotion that should be saved for those who are taken from us forever or those who reciprocate it.

  3. Everything is negotiable.

    Starting college, I was very used to my high school life – where my assignments were on time and perfect and so was I. Things change in college, mostly because things are a lot harder and extenuating life circumstances happen. When I was still a senior, my cousin used to tell me magical tales of how he haggled over grades with is professors. Granted, he went to a really crappy two year school, but I was still pretty sure he was bullshitting. Turns out, not only are grades negotiable, so are some deadlines if you handle yourself right. Hard to believe, but a professor can’t grade all 20 papers in one night so if you approach him/her early about your circumstance – whether it’s that you have four papers and a midterm that week, or you’re generally just having a rough time – a decent person will be sympathetic (I can’t speak generally. Some people, specifically academics, are just assholes). DO NOT expect to negotiate a deadline or a grade if 1. you’ve never been to class 2. it’s the day before/that it is due 3. you ask for extensions often. But, if you’ve generally been doing your job and happen to need some help, ask for it. Turns out, as hard as it is for me to accept sometimes, not everything is in black and white. (some deadlines are, though. Keep track of important dates).

  4. Nothing is the end of the world.

    Your dickhead professor might not be sympathetic and you might get a really horrible grade. In the long scheme of things, it’s not terribly important. You will probably recover. I almost failed out of college freshman year. Now I’m graduating with a 3.something GPA. It will all be fine.

  5. Loopholes exist. Use them.

    I’m really hesitant to ask for help so when someone presents an option to me like “You can take any class for Pass/Fail credit, even a class in your major, due to lost time from the horrific hurricane you endured” I’m still like “ehhh..” but then as a senior who’s probably nearly failing a film studies class, I’m like “WHY?”. So I do. And that’s the first time I’ve ever used a loophole and it was the BEST.

  6. Uggs are barely okay to wear in public. They are definitely not acceptable to wear to a bar.

    THEY’RE NOT. STOP DOING THIS. IT’S NOT 2002! BUY A PAIR OF REAL BOOTS. THEY’RE JUST AS EXPENSIVE. You can SOMETIMES wear them if you’re really sick and are walking around not giving a fuck but DON’T wear them regularly (unless you’re a surfer in Australia and Uggs serve a function, then carry on). I live on Long Island, the land of Uggs and Leggings (which are NOT pants) but this is not acceptable, ladies. Just stop.

  7. There are things you can’t fix.

    You might never understand why someone broke up with you and you will definitely never actively be able to change their mind. Short of a making a power point presentation, which is weird and desperate, you will never be able to convince them of all your fantastic qualities and why they’re missing out. So, drown your problems in beer and rum and then go out and be fabulous all over the internet to make him/her jealous just like EVERYONE else. (Side note, facebook is ruining the world.) This applies to everything else as well. Sometimes you have to know when to relinquish control and accept it for whatever it is.

  8. It’s okay to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them.

    Nobody is freaking perfect and sometimes you’ll fuck up. Like you’ll think your first ever film studies paper of college is due on Thursday when it’s really due on Tuesday and as a result you’ll get a C and think you’re a failure at life and your major and consider transferring or dropping out of college all together 3 weeks into your first semester. This, actually, is okay. Just don’t do it again. (I didn’t. That professor was a dick. He got fired. I’m doing just fine)

  9. Nobody cares that your printer is broken. It’s still due today.

    Freshman year, this was my favorite excuse for not having homework or a paper on time. In high school, we rarely used email and this was acceptable. If you couldn’t print out your homework at home, you often had no other option. Apparently no one at my high school even knew what a flash drive was let alone carried one around. (I can’t imagine living withut my flash drive now, by the way. It’s the best.) It was a harsh awakening to have professors tell me “okay, email it to me right after class” when I was expecting to have another night to finish whatever ‘it’ was. This basically translates to “your problems aren’t my concern. I will have as much leniency for your minor crisis as possible, but you had plenty of time to prepare. Get your shit together”. This is the attitude with which I now approach all academic and professional endeavors. I need to remain on top of my own shit because it is no one’s problem but mine. This attitude alone might make me the perfect employee. (Unless you’ve previously negotiated an extension because then they care. You’re okay)

  10. Ignoring your problems won’t make them go away.

    My favorite phenomena of college life has been watching people simply not show up to class the day of an exam or when a big paper is due. This has always, always confused me. Do you think by not showing up, you won’t have to take it? You’ve only exacerbated the problem for yourself. You now have to schedule a makeup exam or take points off on your late paper. Why not just show up and face it head on? This is true of most things.

  11. Money is only money. You will never have enough & you can’t take it with you.

    You should probably not take financial advice from me because I’m up to my eyeballs in student loan debt and am broke biweekly. I took out an individual loan just to go to Ireland for a month. But, I firmly believe that, within reason, you should be enjoying the money you work for. Of course, there should be a degree of savings and responsibility, but if I can’t blow a weeks pay on a weekend bender every once in a while, why am I even alive? (exaggeration. no panic, parents). Ultimately, you’re going to die and your money isn’t coming with you. You work really hard. Do something fun for yourself. (Unless you don’t work really hard and your money is your parents’. Then get a job.)

  12. You are your worst critic, always.

    No one is harder on you than you are. If someone pays you a compliment, accept that you’re doing a good job. Pat yourself on the back. And then do better.

  13. Sleep is not always the solution.

    Sometimes life knocks you down and you just want to stay down there and take a pretty long nap. Sometimes, this is the best thing for you. Sometimes, it gets pretty excessive. Sleeping too much can just make you lethargic and more depressed.  I know sleep is a symptom of depression but I think it’s cyclical. If you sleep too much and don’t give yourself a chance to come out of it, you’ll never feel better. Sometimes you have to get out there and face what’s wrong rather than just let it pass. Sometimes its okay to take a night off and sleep it off, but sometimes its not. Pick yourself up and get out there, bucko.

  14. Twenties, employed and single is an okay place to be in life for a while.

    One of my biggest role models in life (My cousin Scott) told me this once recently. It didn’t truly sink in until I really started to get close to graduation. I have a job, I’m responsible for no one but myself and I can literally do whatever I want with my life. I want to pick up and move to California? I can go. (I can’t. My job and my family, both of which I’m really fond of, are here in NY.) I won’t be here forever. Someday I’ll be almost 30 and I hope by then I have someone to share my life with, but right now I get to enjoy it and my time and be selfish and do what I want. I’m pretty happy here for a while.

  15. Answer only to yourself.

    You will NEVER make everyone happy. Ultimately, make you happy. If your boss makes you miserable, find somewhere else to work. Make the best of a shitty situation only as long as you absolutely have to.

  16. Internet arguments are not worth having.

    There are very few people who I will waste time arguing with, and I don’t mean any kind of heated fighting. I mean I have an idea and you have an idea, we disagree, but let me explain my position logically. These people are some of the smartest I know. You will never win an internet argument and it’s literally unending. Just don’t do it.  No one will ever concede that their opinion is wrong (opinions can’t be wrong). These arguments have the potential to make you look really stupid in the most public of forums.

  17. NO ONE is as together as they say they are on Facebook.

    People LOVE to make their life sound better than yours because it makes them feel good about themselves. It’s probably not. Don’t share everything on Facebook, anyway. It’s lame. (I do this. I’m actively trying to stop. Bare with me.)

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