It’s too bad college can’t last forever. Sure, you could pull a Van Wilder and fail just enough classes to keep you here for the next five years, but for most of us, pride and paltry bank accounts pretty much eliminate that possibility. That means that, like most good things, college eventually must come to an end.
Fortunately for me, I get to spend another year here at the University of Casual Sex and Beer. Despite having almost enough units and parental nagging to get me out a quarter or two early, I’m here for the full ’07-’08 year – thanks to financial aid and the allure of only taking three classes a quarter to complement my already-full schedule of serving coffee, editing at the Nexus, writing for the Indy, and trying to squeeze in some semblance of a social life.
However, that doesn’t mean I’m immune to the perils of people passing all their classes and getting the hell out of here before the student loans can catch up with them. In fact, quite a few of my favorite people are getting ready to walk across that graduation stage next weekend. With that in mind, I thought I would take advantage of this week’s column to share some of the lessons I’ve learned from the various older – and okay, I’ll admit it, sometimes wiser – people in my life who are now just a few day’s away from becoming full-fledged college graduates.
From my best friend and surrogate big brother, Dan, I’ve learned how to live in the moment without completely forgetting about the future; that, and how to take everything men say when wooing a woman with a grain of salt and then some. From spontaneous trips to go gay club-hopping in L.A., to letting my little brother teach him how to surf, Dan has always been down to try anything-even while wearing more eyeliner than an emo kid at a Dashboard concert. And yet, through it all, he’s kept his eye on the prize and stayed focused on working towards the future. Learning how to live in the moment without forgetting that there’s a future to be had out there in the post-college ether has been an invaluable lesson, and one that I credit Dan with teaching me.
From my assistants at The Daily Nexus, Sophia and Will, I’ve learned that patience is a virtue – and having the patience to put up with everything we’ve been through at Artsweek, as well as working with me, makes them virtuous as hell. Whether it’s making jokes about interspecies romance to alleviate late-night tension, ignoring passes from all manner of male interlopers at the Santa Barbara Film Fest, or stepping up to the plate when deadlines and deadbeats converged to create a crisis, Sophia and Will taught me that nothing makes a long night go by faster than good friends and a good attitude. Well, that and beer.
From one of my oldest UCSB friends, Jeremiah, I’ve learned that working hard is important, but working hard and living well is even better. No matter how much he had to do to get into law school, Jeremiah was willing. Despite his ambitions, he refused to sacrifice his social life or his ability to see the humor in almost every situation. I also learned that not only is it okay to be a huge nerd who loves politics, history, and chess – in many instances, it makes life way more fun. I credit Jeremiah with teaching me the importance of self-acceptance, self-reliance, and self-discipline. And with showing me how to order from the secret In-N-Out menu; who knew you could get your fries animal style too?
From the newest addition to my life, Richie, I’ve learned that a little bit of silliness is never a bad thing – and a lot of silliness is always better. Richie’s continuously contagious openness and excitement in the face of every new person, experience, or edible object he encounters is not just amazing, it’s inspiring. Not only does he know how to have fun, but he has also introduced me to the wonders of eating frosting straight from the can, over-the-top – but awesome – Discovery Channel shows, and the joys of late-night instant messaging as a means of procrastinating on paper-writing. Without Richie, my life would be a lot less fun, and my fridge would be a lot fuller. I’ll take that tradeoff any day.
From my mom-away-from-home, Adrianne, I have learned that sometimes selflessness isn’t the dirty word that my women’s studies classes have conditioned me to think it is. Whether she’s washing someone else’s dirty dishes, making sure our fence gets fixed for the fiftieth time this year, or taking care of anyone who is hurt, sick, or in need of a Goldfish fix, Adrianne is always more than happy to make time to take care of those around her. She has truly taught me how to not only live with other people, but how to live well with other people.
I know I’m neglecting to mention plenty of folks, and I know there’s no way I can talk about everything I’ve learned in college – and everyone I’ve learned it from – in just one column. But suffice it to say, that nothing brings the reality of the four years called college home quite like the emotional rollercoaster that is the end of the year; especially a year when a lot of your best friends are leaving the I.V. bubble and venturing out into the real world. Unfortunately, I can’t tie my friends to chairs and make them stay here – even though I know some of them would enjoy at least part of that equation. And the plot of Van Wilder is a totally unrealistic model for how to make this problem go away. After all, there’s no way that Tara Reid’s hair would have stayed so straight and shiny if he really set the sprinklers off in her lecture hall.
But whether it’s knowing how to order animal style fries, remembering to stay open to new experiences, appreciating the ingeniousness of an entire TV show devoted to crab fishing, or knowing that sometimes all it takes to cheer someone up is a well-placed bowl of little fish-shaped cheese snacks, I know that the things my friends have taught me will stay with me even after they leave. And, if all else fails, we’ll always have Facebook.