When I graduated undergrad I wrote something about my time during those 4 years. I was all sentimental and reflective and all things that make people throw up in their mouths a bit. The weird thing about that old post was that there was no real sort of finality to it. I knew what the next chapter was. I was going to grad school to spend the next two years of my life.
Now that’s over. The next chapter is about to begin and I’m not sure what’s next – and anyone who knows me knows that’s a problem. That being said, the last 6 years of my life have been weird. Everyone says the college years are the best years of my life. I don’t know if I agree with that. I’ll only know if the next decade is either awesome or a pile of crap.
The reason I have doubts is because I wholly admit that I did undergrad wrong. I drove from Goldsboro to Greenville three days a week for the first two years. Part of the reason will remain unspoken, but a big factor in it was my adamant desire to not live in the dorms. Dorms are gross. I’d be sharing a room with some dickhead I didn’t know who I likely would have had nothing in common with. I’d have to use the bathroom with countless other dickheads who would be disgusting. I’d be living in a cesspool of bacterial infections and STDs. Since home was only an hour away, I chose to drive.
But now I wish I had just sucked it up. I could’ve lived through it for a year and gotten an apartment the next year. Maybe I could’ve gotten an apartment all 4 years. The point is this: College is the place where you’re supposed to make dozens of lifelong friends. I don’t know if I did that. That’s not to say I didn’t make any. There are a couple of people I consider friends. Do we hang out all the time and do bro things with other bros? No. But I’m not a bro kind of guy.
But if I had lived in the dorms, I would’ve made more friends. I would’ve met more people. I wouldn’t have spent so much time alone letting decisions I made eat me alive. I would’ve been more tolerant of people being drunk annoyances. Instead, I’m now kind of a crotchety bore.
Even when I moved into my apartment, I made it clear on the roommate matching sheet that I didn’t want roommates that partied or did drugs or were fornicating at all hours of the night. I got two of those three things, but I never really had much contact with my roommates outside of collecting money for the internet bill every month. I wish I had found better roommates.
But in grad school I did what I told my freshman students to do – I hit the reset button. Everything went out the window and I just started doing what I wanted. I tried being social. I tried being friendly. It worked for the most part. I was still uncomfortably weird about it, but it worked a little.
But toward the end things fell apart. I kind of just gave up. I withdrew back into my own personal bubble and didn’t want anything to do with anyone – and I don’t think anyone else really minded. So it didn’t work out socially. That’s fine. Once I find a new job (hopefully) I’ll have another chance to hit the reset button and try again.
The real difference I found in grad school was that I’m pretty sure I found my calling – teaching. Seven years ago I compared teaching to being a missionary in the deepest African jungles. Now, I don’t really want to do anything else. It feels good to be liked. It feels good to know you actually improved someone’s life. My students told me I was awesome this semester. And while I didn’t set out at the beginning to gain their approval, it was that affirmation that let me know I was doing things the right way.
The biggest part was that I saw them become better writers. The beginning started out rough. I had my doubts. But by the time the end of the semester came around, every last one of them were writing good college papers. And that’s what I wanted them to do.
I don’t expect any of my students to remember me when they graduate. I just hope that they remember the nuggets of advice that I drove into their moldable minds throughout the semester so that one day it will hit them like a massive aneurism and they’ll think, “Hey, that bald guy was right.” And that’s okay with me. While a part of me likes the attention, I’ve always enjoyed being behind the scenes, away from the spotlight.
My collegiate student career is over. Now I can move on into the real world and start complaining about adult things like insurance and taxes.