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7 things I learned in college
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This week marks the last first week of my college career, and I'm over-the-moon excited for classes to start. It may sound a little strange, but I can't wait for Monday to come. But I wasn't always this eager for school to be in session. In fact it's taken three years for me to really appreciate how amazing college really is. And when this year finally comes to a close, I'm not sure I'll be able to give it up.
Despite my trepidation for the end of the year, the last three years have prepared me to have the best year yet. College teaches you a great deal, but its lessons go beyond that of any one program.
1. How much I love being by myself
I've always been a little more on the independent side, but I never knew how much I loved "me time" until college. Watching Netflix, reading a good book, or just listening to music and enjoying a glass of wine, at times I have canceled plans to go out with friends just for some quiet time alone.
Alone time has also taught me that it is okay to not want to go out with friends every night. And the great part about it is, the pressures of adolescence to stick closely to your peers are long gone. Your friends will be completely understanding if you tell them you want to stay in for the night, because chances are they have come to appreciate their alone time just as much as you have.
2. Okay, so maybe I do like things clean after all
When I was growing up, my mother would have to ask me again and again to do something as simple as unloading the dishwasher — which in reality only made me want to do it less. I never made my bed, and the clean clothes, which my mother washed, sat in a dark corner of my room in a lilac, mushroom chair for at least a week until the next load was ready to take its place.
But now that I'm on my own and my mother isn't here to hound me about chores on a daily basis, I have fully converted to the other side. The side where dirty dishes in the sink give me anxiety and wrinkled clothes are a criminal offense. I even own a vacuum now, one that plugs in and everything, not just a push sweeper. Cleanliness keeps me sane, and without my sanity, I'd never make it through my coursework.
3. A little distance goes a long way
My mother and I have never really had the best of relationships. In many ways it's because we are a lot alike — both too stubborn for our own good, and unwilling to admit when the other is right. I now live two hours away from her, and moving away was the best thing that has ever happened for our relationship. We talk all the time, and even when we do get at each other's throats, an end to the fight is just a click away.
When I drive home to visit her, I get all the benefits of a close relationship with my mother without the fighting that comes with it. We go out to dinner or stay home and watch a movie, and it's like I'm hanging out with a friend.
4. Independence is key
Independence has always been my most prized characteristic. The ability to stand on my own two feet means the world to me. So needless to say, going away to college was a welcomed learning experience on how to be on my own. There were a lot of things I already had down, like remembering when to get an oil change and paying all my bills on time, but there were also a lot of little things that I wasn't quite competent at just yet. As embarrassing as it is to say, cooking is still a problem. But my roommate is helping me to work on that.
5. But you should also know when to ask for help
My independence is my pride and joy, so I shouldn't have to tell you how much it kills me to admit that I called my mother at least once a day the first month of college. And a good portion of those calls involved a lot of tears and phrases like, "it's too hard" and "I can't do it."
Even though I knew everything would be fine, and that despite the challenge of it all I would make it out alive, I still needed someone there to tell me that it would all be okay. You should always have a go to person to help you put yourself back together when you fall apart. For me, that was my mother. She helped me navigate the real world, answering questions about taxes, doing my laundry, and paying the bills, which helped me out considerably and it also brought us closer together.
6. Debt is not the devil
I absolutely refused to take out student loans when I was first getting out of high school. I told myself that if the money wasn't there, then I simply wasn't going to college. Four years and a hundred anxiety attacks later, I've finally come to terms with being in debt. It took some prioritizing on my part, but my education is worth the trouble.
I know there are plenty of horror stories out there about people who wind up buried by their debt and are never fully able to get on top of it. But there are ways to manage it. Going in state for school is definitely a good way to minimize the damage. And even if you do decide to go out of state, simply choosing a school with lower tuition will help a lot. I know we all secretly wish we could go to an ivy league, even if just for the bragging rights. But my school is one of the top schools in the country for my program, and it's a small town university with cheap in state tuition.
7. It goes by way too fast — so enjoy it while it lasts
I spent way too much time in college just trying to "get it over with." That was probably one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made. But I have learned from that mistake, and that is why I am determined to make this last year my best year. I know that many of us are swamped by school because it means working full time to make rent while also trying to get through your classes, and taking the maximum credit load to try and save money. But don't worry about it so much. Worrying leads to wrinkles and it ages you like you wouldn't believe. Just let it go, and enjoy college while it lasts.