I Love College

13 May

This weekend I graduated from college. I woke up super early, put on a pretty dress (red and black, of course), met my friends, donned my cap and gown and walked into one of the most sacred places in the world: the home of my beloved Georgia Bulldogs football team, Sanford Stadium.

My four years at the University of Georgia have been everything they were hyped up to be and, if possible, more. I was told it would be the time of my life, the source of lifelong nostalgia. It surely was and, I’m confident, will continue to be.

I met best friends, some during the first few weeks of freshman year and some in my last few months as a senior. I was lucky enough to indulge in life-altering experiences – a semester studying in England and weekend-skipping around Europe, two falls road-tripping across the South, New Years Eve and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin and a couple summers in the ultimate college town to name a few. And I learned so much – about global warming and z-scores, Freud and feminist theory, the Cold War and Spanish verb conjugations, cell division and female Biblical writers, the history of the penny press and how to write leads, PhotoShop and the Dickinson wars; about friendship and loyalty and courage and love.

I realize how cliché all of that sounds, but perhaps that’s the most profound part of the end my college experience – I know now why there are so many clichés about this period of your life.

It’s like Paris. The pundits, historians and tourists tell you it’s gorgeous and quaint and accessible and Oh-My-God romantic. It is all of these things, especially the romantic part. The romance of Paris is, of course, a ridiculously overused cliché – until you see it for yourself, that is. And then, in one second – mine was when we stepped out to the viewing park in front of the Eiffel Tower – you get it. You instinctively understand that the talk of Paris romance may be clichéd…but the feeling of it could never be.

College is the same way. They told me it would be a whirlwind of bars, libraries, parties and all-nighters with people I would never, ever forget. As corny as it is to admit, it was exactly that. The best four years of my life, without a doubt.

Everyone keeps asking how it feels to be a graduate and if the reality of joining the real world has sunk in yet. I don’t know how I feel because it hasn’t sunk in. (In a bar on graduation night, I turned to my friend Thomas and said, “Oh my God, Thomas! The next time we go into that stadium we’ll be alumni!” “We’re alumni right now, Whitney,” he replied. I could only stare at him, wide-eyed, in response.) It feels like just another summer, like I’ll be back in August, dreading buying over-priced text books and pumped about another glorious season of SEC football with my Dawgs.

I won’t be back though, and that scares me. The scholastic life is the only one I’ve known for 17 of my almost 22 years, and I’m really good at it. And a very big part of me has no desire to leave it. But I start my big girl job on Monday and end my glorious 21st year next Wednesday, and I am excited, especially since I’ve spent the last four months petrified that I would be jobless, insurance-less, hopeless and living at home upon graduation. In a crappy economy when print journalism is fading fast, I found a progressive company that is allowing me to develop my skills and have a hand in the progression of journalism and internet marketing, and I am super, super excited about it. As stressful and bittersweet as it is, I’m also excited about moving to Atlanta and decorating a new apartment and going out in a *big* town that isn’t 65 percent girls. As much as I don’t want to leave this beautiful life I’ve led for so long, I think I’m in a good place at a good time, and I know I have everything I could need or want open to me.

But oh my, am I nostalgic about college already. I scanned my old journals today while taking a break from apartment hunting. I read details and drawn-out rambles about bar hopping and frat boy drama and friendship crises, and I know I will have moments of deep sadness that I am not still immersed in that legendary Athens scene. But I also think I’ll be okay with merely reminiscing about those moments instead of desperately wishing I could relive them. College – these years and stories and memories – will always be precious, but every day I become more comfortable with this particular journey reaching its end, and I think when I look back on it in years to come, it might feel something like this…

“Still I go down to that college town when the Bulldogs play at home /
I drink keg beer from a trash can till that whole damn thing is gone /
Then I’ll look at all those college girls, so innocent and young /
And just check ‘em out and say, ‘Damn. I wish I was 21.’”

-– Corey Smith, “Twenty One”

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