Ten things I learnt through my undergraduate college experiences as a twenty-something year old out on her own for the first time in her life.
1. There’s always that one friend that seems to have it all.
Don’t lie, we’ve all got one of those friends. I certainly do. Heck, sometimes I’m beyond certain that all my friends seem to have it all – all they want, all their plans beautiful fit together, all their dreams and future ambitions becoming a reality. It’s happening for them quicker than you can say “Yeah I just graduated with-“ at your 20th job interview of the week.
But I’m slowly realising that what they seem to have are the things you notice them to have simply because they mean more to you, they’re what you’re after. And that’s fine, but chances are that they’re not happy doing what they’re doing. Their priorities are not the same as yours and slowly you get over the fact that not only do they seem to have it all, they don’t even necessarily want it all. You’ll realise that just because their time is now, doesn’t mean your time won’t be tomorrow.
2. Somehow, you’re always running out of money.
Oh, did I have this problem! And it wasn’t to say that I was a total spendthrift. No way! Sure, I bought the odd few books off of Kindle or iBooks, but who doesn’t do that? Somehow though, I’d often find myself bordering on the middle of ‘broke’ and ‘negative balance’ midway through the month and I’d still have more bills to pay. I have often fibbed when my parents asked me how I was doing financially. Not because I was ashamed, although a part of me was, but because I knew they’d send more money after giving me a lecture on how I should be responsible with it. I just didn’t want to take more from them than I already had. It’s often a struggle but, of the worst of it, when one of your mate’s birthdays happen to fall on the last week of the month. You’re literally sitting there crying about the injustice of the world and cursing their parents for not being considerate enough to have them in the beginning of the month or just wait till next month. Then the mad dash to find loose change around the house begins. Somehow though, there’s always enough money to order pizza.
3. You do NOT have to get drunk to have a good time.
Seriously, why do that to yourself? Not only do you have hazy memories of the night before, at best, you’re also pretty sure you’re sloppy and just annoying. Sure there’s the classy drunks that don’t let on they’re drunk until they have that one drink too many and upchuck all over the dance floor. You do NOT want to be that person. In general though, there’s nothing appealing about being unable to control your bodily functions. It’s disastrous as hell not being able to control what you might say, trust me. It’s not safe for you and it’s not attractive either, unless the guy you’re after is just as sloppy a drunk as you are, in which case you’re both each other’s sure thing. Then all that means is you both get halfway through undressing before passing out with his member in the air. A member that, mind you, he won’t even be able to get up if he’s that drunk (fun fact!). So really, all you ended up doing getting that wasted is getting yourself broke to add onto the hangover you’re sure to have the next day. Fun.
I’m not saying don’t drink or don’t get tipsy, go for it! I know as well that it takes a few trial and error moments to understand what your boundaries are and that’s okay as well. But once you know your boundaries and stick to them, I assure you you’ll have a better night. Hey, you might even be able to tell him to wrap it up this time.
4. Do that damn thing.
We all have that ‘thing’ – whether it’s learning a new language, or finally playing that instrument, maybe sitting down and writing a book, or just making time for yourself doing nothing at all. Make time for it. Do it. Don’t put it off and say you’ve got time and you can do it tomorrow. Because you won’t do it tomorrow and soon enough, your entire undergraduate time frame would’ve passed and you’re still sitting there having done none of that ‘growth activity’ you wanted to have mastered by the time you left college. I’m still looking at my guitar stood against the wall wondering if I really do know how to play the A major chord, before wondering if that really is a chord or if I’m just remembering my piano scales. Dammit.
5. Don’t miss classes.
Just don’t. You’re paying for that experience. Sure, miss a couple, everyone’s entitled to a day off. Even my lecturers had moments where they looked like they were hungover giving the lecture they were sometimes. Everyone needs one. But don’t be that person that pays a shit ton of money to go and then goes for the first week before reappearing for the exam wondering who the hell the people around you are and if you really did take Mandarin or you’re just tripping.
The college experience isn’t just the party life, the independence or the freedom. It’s sitting next to the ‘sleepy guy’ in the lecture hall, or being totally shut down by the lecturer when you say the wrong thing (it happens, but they’re usually nice about it!) or making a friend for life simply by commenting on how bald this new lecturer appears to be in the odd light to the person next to you. Enjoy it, because life really won’t be this sweet once you’re done. As I type up my 100th job application this week, I can guarantee it.
6. Take up that sporting activity.
Yawn, bore, snore, I know. But there’s a reason this one fact is brought to light by so many people so many times. And since we all ignore it anyway, there will be more people like myself to keep it alive. At the very least, write a list of potentials that you can ‘narrow down’ later to get the ball rolling – it’s been two months and I’m yet to decide between tennis and netball. Oh well.
7. Learn to cook.
Sure, it’s cool to say you’ve been living off Ramen for the last month because you spent your money on booze. So cool for all of maybe the first semester of college, the second as well depending on who you hang out with. But if by the second year you’re not gravitating towards cooking wine and asparagus then you need to smack yourself on the back of the head, pronto!
8. Move out of that space you share with twenty other people.
It actually didn’t take me long to figure this one out. After moving out of my parents’ place (more by necessity than choice) I moved into student housing, and was constantly surrounded by people. I shared a living space with one other person, but there were usually a stream of people coming in and out of my room. Not that I wanted that, but I never stopped it either because that was the norm. It was great for a while, I felt like I had lots of friends, felt like there was always someone to do something with, but that gets old after a while. Sooner or later you learn who would really stick by you and suddenly all other acquaintances become superfluous and energy draining. It was absolutely blissful moving out of student accommodation and into a proper apartment where I had the space to breathe.
9. Dream, but when you’re awake and alert.
This is one of those things that applies to life in general. I’m a daydreamer and I often conjure up scenarios and moments in my minds (come on, I’m not the only one!) and this often leads to having ideas about little side projects that stem from the several hobbies I have. It’s all well and good to have ideas, but often we forget to implement them. It took me a while to realise that I didn’t have to have a ground-breaking idea for it to be worthy of a platform. I also realised that ideas are great, but pretty useless if they remain as such. Have the confidence to back up your thoughts and dreams and find a way to make it a reality. It may end up being the next big thing, or it may not, and that’s perfectly okay, but give yourself the chance to find out.
10. It’s okay to be alone.
I don’t know about you, but I spent my college years being that girl that other girls came to for relationship advice despite my super single status. Come to think of it, that hasn’t changed at all. Watching from the sidelines made me somewhat omniscient. While it stung for a bit watching everyone I know pair up, over time I thanked my lucky stars. It gave me the opportunity to explore myself, understand myself and be able to appreciate my strengths and weaknesses, without having to worry about helping someone else do the same. I didn’t have to plan myself around someone else’s schedule, or make sure I’d included someone in my plans to avoid them from being butt-hurt. I went out, did what I wanted to do with the freedom and peace of mind that I didn’t owe anyone (except my parents of course) an explanation. I learned my boundaries and limits for myself, learned how far I could stretch them, without having someone set those boundaries for me.
Some people are able to learn these things with their significant other, so I’m not saying you have to be alone to learn yourself. Some people just grow better with someone than alone, but most of the time having a relationship with someone else while you’re still trying to have a successful one with yourself can clash and limit how much you grow. Baby steps. Just know, you don’t need to be with someone constantly to be happy.
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