I have a niece who is in her Freshman year at college and every time I talk to her or her mom, I seem to have memories flood back. They are mostly of my tight knit group of work cohorts and amazing roommates but I am also reminded of some of the conveniences that I was too young to appreciate. I am so happy with the life that I have now and I do not want to go backwards, but looking back, I wish I appreciated college enough to have offered it a proper good-bye.
When I graduated college, I was headed to live with one of my best high school friends at the beach and then off to all of the exciting things that I just knew my future would hold. I had plenty of college friends that would live close when the summer was over and being pretty close to school, I had planned to head back to visit and go to sporting events.
Little did I know that being an adult does not offer you the freedoms and conveniences that college does.
I had not given enough thought to the fact that it sure is easy to squeeze in time with friends when you work and live with them or when going to happy hour with them simply includes a 5-10 minute walk.
I had not taken into account that I would not be able to get a free student ticket to go to the games or that driving and parking made it a bit more cumbersome.
More than just my social life, I did not appreciate college life.
I did not appreciate that an 8 am class twice a week was a piece of cake compared to being at work by 7:30 am 5 days a week with a commute that was quite a bit longer than the walk across campus. And how tired I would be by the end of the week.
I did not think about how nice it was to have a two hour break between classes or that a thirty minute lunch break would not feel the same.
I did not appreciate how great it was to go to the dining hall and just use my "points", especially at Maryland where there was a plethora of choices almost all day and a great salad bar.
I also did not realize how easy friendship was in school (college or otherwise). When you are forced with so many people, you are eventually going to make a few friends. Adulthood makes that a little harder unless you work in a place full of twenty-somethings.
Unfortunately, I did not realize any of this at the time so, instead of really mourning about the part of my life that was ending, I was unrealistically optimistic about how I would drag it out. I made promises about visiting that I kept, but not as often as I planned. People that I was sure I would see again ended up being faces that I was excited to see almost 10 years later when I found them on facebook. And, as life took over, people moved, families grew and schedules got busy, the people that I love become harder and harder to schedule in time with.
Less dramatic perhaps, the humdrum of life took over without my even realizing it. Somehow my schedule still contained happy hours and ladies nights but much less of them. My time got filled with work projects, household chores, bills and adulthood. Now, in the blink of an eye, I find that 15 years have passed and I have my own family and am giving advice to my college-aged niece.
As I said above, I would not change where my life is at all. I have a wonderful husband and kids that mean everything to me and I am even lucky enough to have a job that I feel good about with people that I like to work with. I just wish that somehow, when I left college, I would have realized what I was leaving enough to take the time to appreciate it and give it the proper mourning it deserved.