I’m pretty sure I peaked when I was a sophomore in high school. I was 15 years old. It was my best year academically (what’s up 3.6 unweighted GPA? I haven’t seen you in a while), athletically (only year that I made it to Junior Olympics in swimming) and on a personal level I think I kind of found myself and became comfortable with being me (yes, that was possible in the days before GaGa). Then I plateaued, physically and metaphorically. I had a resurgence sophomore year of college but nothing really sustainable.
Now I’m living at home and I’m pretty sure I’m on my way to becoming a frumpy househusband: eating ice cream by the pint, watching re-runs of The Golden Girls on Lifetime, ogling Anderson Cooper. Admittedly I did those things even before I graduated, but back then I wasn’t living with my parents and unemployed. Now all I need is a cigarette and a pill addiction, and I’ll be an after school special.
Thinking back, though, my position isn’t radically different from the post-college careers of most of my friends. Very few of my friends were successful right out of college. Almost all of them had to move back home after school; one of my best friends took two part-time jobs as a merchandiser for J. Crew and as a “sales associate” at a pop up Pop Tarts World in Times Square where she toasted Pop Tarts for tourists. I can’t describe the number of people who called me crying because their lives weren’t going as planned or because so-and-so, their best frenemy, was doing better than they were at that particular moment. Why would I want to fall into that trap of misery and self-loathing? I get enough of that when I realize I just finished a pint of “Mission to Marzipan.”
It’s those moments of despair — when I’m depressed about how I am doing in the great race to be successful — that I look back on the lessons learned in college. You can expect to learn a lot of things in college about theories and foreign practices and lots of ideas that will be influential in the constantly evolving mass of contradictions and blatant hypocrisies that we call ourselves, but more important than all of that is what you will find out about yourself in those extremely short and volatile four years. For my part, I found out that I can’t work at any other pace setting besides “Lex.” Most of the time I ended up better for it in the long run. A lot of people thrive on competition. I don’t.
It took four years to learn what could have been learned in one sitting if I had just paid better attention to “The Tortoise and the Hare” in nursery school.
So I will be living my life at my own speed. I will be looking back to college to remember things and to give advice to people who want it, but my present, my “now”, my life will be dictated on my own terms with no other competitor in the pool of life besides my own record.
Photo courtesy of Dominic’s pics via Flickr (CC by 2.0).