I did’nt go away to college. Unless you count taking the bus two hours each way from the east side to get to Marygrove College, which I don’t. My dorm was a two bedroom apartment that I shared with my cousin and my six month old son. While other people my age learned about independence and responsibility by pushing the boundaries of curfews and binge drinking, I was changing Pampers and working minimum wage jobs.
This week, I am in the upper peninsula of Michigan at Lake Superior State University, a beautiful campus in Saulte Ste. Marie that has a bridge to Canada in its backyard. As the den mother to four fifth graders (my son and three of his friends), I am experiencing college in a way I never have. I have a twin sized bunk bed, there are community showers and performing arts classes in between scheduled student life activities. While my students couldn’t have been more bored at first, I could’nt help but imagine eighteen year old Racheal seeing this campus for the first time.
As I turn the corner on this quarter life crisis I’ve been having (don’t judge, it’s waaaay better to have one of these at 29 than at 40), I am realizing that it’s not the not going away to college part that I resent, but it’s feeling robbed of the experiences that suck. I think all freshmen should get a practice shot at playing the game of life before it’s real and everything after is for keeps.
As crazy as it sounds, I would tell my daughters to go out with a guy you and everybody else thinks is hot, drink as much as you think you can handle, then see if it’s as good of an idea in the morning, and go to every single event the university hosts, even if it’s nothing more than a corny movie in the student lounge. I promise you, once you are grown and in the huge world that exists outside campus halls, there are no late nights that lead to early mornings, just early mornings that mean you’ve got to get up for work. In college, you get four years of life practice, that hopefully means when it’s your turn to do it for real, you get it right.
So maybe it doesn’t always go this way. I know way too many people who got degrees at twenty-two and have no common sense to go with it. But at least they got the chance to live a little, make some mistakes and recover.
During this week at LSSU, I am telling my students to soak up every moment they are here, reminding them that unlike their friends, they are away from home, learning new things and there is an unlimited supply of ice cream and fountain Coke here (my personal favorite).
Through the eyes I have now, I can appreciate being this far from home with a few days off work, and I am not the introverted, scared girl I imagine I would’ve been in 2001. I am really an adult now (despite still feeling like a big kid sometimes), and it is okay with my soul that it went the way it did. Even if I didn’t get just one date with the hot guy on campus.