FYI: this post was inspired by the UNC basketball game last night. It was my last game in the Dean Dome as a student and we BEAT dook! It was an exhilarating experience and the perfect way to celebrate senior year. It prompted me to dig a little deeper into my college experience. If I’ve learned anything the past four years, it’s that it is always a #GDTBATH.
Some may say I’m a sentimental person. I have a basket filled with handwritten notes, cards and other small memos that I refuse to throw out. When people surprise me or buy me gifts I often cry out of happiness. I save random things that remind me of significant moments or people. I’m an advertisers’ dream, as I typically cry at any commercial designed to evoke emotion.
However, I really haven’t been sentimental about my time at UNC wrapping up. Although graduation is quickly approaching, I’ve remained pretty steadfast in my excitement about the next chapter of life. Ever since freshman year, I’ve stuck to my unpopular opinion that I really don’t love college.
Don’t get me wrong – the past four years have provided me with incredible experiences, relationships and knowledge that I couldn’t have gained otherwise. And it’s not that I hate college – I like it, I just don’t love it.
I never bought into the whole ‘college’ mindset of staying up all night just because, eating ramen because #college, pulling all nighters to finish papers or doing ridiculous spontaneous things just to prove that I was spontaneous. On the flip side, college has made me feel constantly torn.
Torn between studying and wanting to take advantage of every academic opportunity available at the university – but also wanting to invest more in my friendships and meeting new people I would only have the chance to cross paths with at Carolina. This has been a constant internal battle for me the past four years…I can’t tell you how many evenings I spent with friends where I was constantly worrying about my growing pile of school work – or how many nights I spent in the library distracted from my work because I felt like I was missing out and doing my friends a disservice.
Even though the Instagram and SnapChat feeds I scroll through paint a different picture – I think college should be both of these things. Before we even show up at college, this idea of total freedom and lack of responsibility is shoved down our throats – no one comes home from college and tells you how hard their classes were or the struggle in finding and maintaining a solid group of friends. They tell you about the parties they went to, the times they drove to another state in the middle of the night or the afternoons spent skipping class in pursuit of adventure.
However, at the end of the day, the reason I came to Carolina was to learn. Granted, some lessons I have gained were outside of the classroom – the ones in the classroom provided me the foundation that launched me into many of the incredible experiences the past four years have brought along.
I may not have had the most exciting college career in comparison to other students, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable. Leaning into the tension between academia and friendships has allowed me to see the importance of each side – and it pushed me to be even more present in whatever activity I chose to invest my time in at the moment.
I learned that if I wanted to challenge myself academically, I was going to have to isolate myself for hours in the basement of Carroll Hall or in Davis Library studying. I had to get out of my comfort zone and assume leadership positions in classes or spend extra hours in professors’ offices.
I learned that if I wanted to become a part of the Chapel Hill community, I was going to spend hours planning WyldLife events and sitting in the stands at middle school sport games. I had to take the time to learn the area and invest in the families who live here.
I learned that if I wanted to grow friendships, I had to listen well and be a present friend without an agenda. I had to become more selfless and more generous with my personal time and schedule.
I learned that if I was going to spend an absurd amount of time waiting in line at basketball games, I was going to fully embrace that experience. I wasn’t going to allow my worries about classes overshadow the thrill of Carolina basketball and participating in timeless traditions.
Once I shook the lie that my college experience was only going to be valuable if it appeared effortless, spontaneous and fun, did it actually become valuable.
Living in the tension between pursuing excellence in relationships and academics has been the greatest and hardest lesson I’ve learned in college.
Every season of life is going to have highs and lows – whether it’s college, adulthood, parenthood or being a retired grandparent. Throughout these stages of life, you are always going to be pulled between choices – and always told that your experiences are less valuable if they don’t appear a certain way.
Study hard, cheer hard, work hard and love those around you hard. Find that balance between things and don’t look back. That’s where the good stuff is.