We often hear these well-intentioned words when we’re in any given season of life, whether it’s high school, college, singleness, married without kids, new parents to young kids, etc.
Enjoy this season while it lasts. You’ll never get it back.
To some extent, I love these words. I fully agree with the idea of living in the present moment and gratefully being aware of how good we have it in the current season. But I also sort of disagree with these words. They imply that the next season is less desirable, or at least less enjoyable, than we imagine it will be. They imply that the current season is the best thing that will ever happen to us. And sometimes, it’s difficult to fully appreciate what a season meant and how rich it was until we’ve moved on to the next one.
I heard these words most often during my college years. The college years are unique in so many ways, and we often can’t fully appreciate just how truly weird and special they are until we’re in the throes of adulthood.
I loved college while I was there, but it also felt like a very transitory period, something I was doing just to get to the next stage: adulthood, career, marriage. What I didn’t realize until after I graduated was just how formative and truly stand-alone my college years were. College wasn’t just about getting ready for the next phase of life. Those years were about becoming, yes, but they were also about being.
Also, many parts of college were just plain fun, and I wish I’d soaked up and appreciated that even more than I did at the time.
So here’s a not at all exhaustive list of some of the things I miss most about college now that I’m in a very different season of life, about 10 years out from the day I moved into my freshman dorm. Some are silly and some are serious, but they’re all sweet memories.
1. The general nostalgia and camaraderie of football games. There’s something so uniting about cheering for your favorite team. I loved waking up early on Saturday mornings to the sound of alumni tailgating across the street from my dorm, eating my breakfast amid the excited chatter buzzing in the cafeteria, and dressing in my game-day attire before heading out to cheer on my Spartans. Now that I’m on my own and I don’t have cable, it’s a lot harder to watch and enjoy the games!
2. A cafeteria that made my food for me. We all said it: “I can’t wait to be on my own and cook my own food instead of eating this gross stuff!” Cooking my own food is a heck of lot less glamorous than I imagined. Granted, I eat much healthier now that I don’t have access to waffles and pizza and brownies at every meal, but gosh, it was nice to not have to prepare my own food.
3. Living with my best friends. When else in your life do you literally live next door to your best friends? I’ve struggled to form deep and meaningful friendships in my adulthood because it’s just so much easier to make friends when you do everything together. I miss walking down the hall, knocking on Erin’s door, ordering some pizza and milkshakes, and watching Pride and Prejudice in our pajamas. I miss walking to class together in the mornings. I miss eating dinner together every night.
4. Being able to walk everywhere. I cursed the fact that I didn’t have a car on campus during the winter—and those Michigan winters are definitely brutal!—but it was so nice to have everything within walking distance. I was fortunate enough to live in Chicago after college, where everything was also within walking distance—Starbucks, groceries, church, friends. I love being able to drive and find parking wherever I go now that I’m in the suburbs, but I definitely miss being outside and walking as much as I used to.
5. Pokey sticks. If you had a Gumby’s pizza on your campus, you know exactly what Pokey Sticks are. As if the grease and garlic and cheese and butter already on these weren’t enough, you just have to dip them in garlic butter sauce. These were responsible for so many stomachaches, so many extra pounds, and so many fond memories.
6. Having a reason to read and learn outside my comfort zone. This is another that I feel very blessed to still get to experience regularly. As a copyeditor, I read a lot of books. Some of them are right up my alley, and some are books I’d never pick up on my own. But what I miss about college is having to meaningfully engage in books and discussions and learning experiences every single day. I’m sure you’re not surprised to know that I was not the type to skip out on my reading for class (other ISFJs, owls, and general rule-followers, are you with me?), and even when I didn’t love what I was reading, I loved the act of opening and stretching my mind in new ways.
7. Showing up for class in my yoga pants. When else in life is it perfectly acceptable to wear yoga pants all day, every day, everywhere you go? Maybe when you’re a new mom, and that’s about it. Why didn’t I realize how good I had it when I could just roll out of bed, pull on some yoga pants, and walk out the door?
8. Having a whole world of possibilities in front of me. I’ll be honest, I still feel like I have a lot of possibilities in front of me. I think cultivating a heart of gratitude and trusting God’s ways and leading helps me to maintain this perspective. I don’t feel limited by my life of working in an office, being married in the suburbs, and having a baby on the way; I think it opens me up to the possibilities I’ve always wanted. But there’s something about college that makes it feel like everything and anything is possible. You can choose whatever major you want, consider all the careers, join any of the clubs, and start fresh each year. I don’t miss the feeling of anxiety that comes along with having so many possibilities but no prospects during senior year, but I do reminisce about the times when possibilities were actually endless.
9. School year breaks. I still got to take advantage of these somewhat after college when I was a teacher, but there is nothing as luxurious as college breaks: almost four months in the summer, a month at Christmas, and two weeks in the spring. As adults, most of us get about 2–4 weeks of vacation each year, which makes it something to really savor.
10. Constant growth. I think it’s a beautiful part of life that we are constantly growing and changing, but that constant change happens so rapidly in college. We were constantly meeting new people, reading new books, taking new classes, having new experiences. We were developing emotionally and mentally into the people we are today. That rapid growth certainly came with some growing pains, but as I consider who I was when I started college (just a baby) and who I was when I graduated, I’m amazed at how much God molded me and changed me in those years. I can see how my friends, my family, my professors, and my classmates shaped me. I look at who I am now and realize just how much my college years taught me about who I always was and laid a foundation for me to fully become that person over the past ten years and through the rest of my life.The #college years are uniquely formative. 10 things to not take for granted: Click To Tweet