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The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

The Student News Site of Bethel University

The Clarion

Anxieties of a future ex-college student

For the past four years of my life (almost), I’ve described myself first and foremost as a “college student.” I achieved this status when I arrived on Bethel University’s campus for the first time in August 2020 during the pandemic. 

I sat in my dad’s silver Toyota Highlander, wondering if we’d even be able to complete the school year as 13 screaming Welcome Week upperclassmen rushed toward the car to help me move into Nelson Hall. It looked like a lot of fun to jump and dance and unload mini fridges for incoming freshmen, but being on the receiving end of this only added to the anxiety I was already experiencing.  

The biggest concern I had about going to school 12 hours away was making friends and building connections. The last time I was the “new kid,” I was in seventh grade. I had friends, but forgot how to actually make them. I didn’t know how to conjure up a lifelong relationship any more than I understood how to do my own laundry (I didn’t). 

Understanding my current concerns, my mom gave me one piece of advice that I immediately took to heart. She told me to say “yes” to everything. Not drugs, of course, or sex, but any offer that wasn’t going to get me kicked off Bethel’s campus should always be followed up with agreement. 

Coming from an athletic background, I had a tendency to look down on who others might call “nerds.” She pointed out my prejudice and specifically said that if someone asks me to play Dungeons and Dragons with them, I should politely accept. “You never know where it might take you,” she explained. I thought it was worth a shot. 

Both my parents attended Bethel, and their college years were a mundane routine in our household: the wild narrative of their engagement, felonies they may or may not have committed and broomball championships they almost won. 

As a competitive person, I was determined to make my time at Bethel just as memorable.

In line with my mom’s advice, every time someone asked me to do anything during my freshman year, I promptly replied, “Yes.” I went to Perkins and had mediocre pecan pie at 2 a.m., climbed into the rafters of Benson Hall in the middle of the night and snuck in and out of people’s windows to prevent getting caught by the RA for breaking visitation hours. I joined Movie Club just because someone asked if I wanted to attend. I joined the Club Ultimate team and stayed up all night playing a tournament that only meant anything to the other people present. When broomball season came along, I was on three different teams — because obviously, I wasn’t going to say no. 

By the time sophomore year rolled around, I had already decided that I loved being a college student. I’ll admit the “student” aspect isn’t the most exciting, but there’s just something about spending too much time in the library and having the same Calvinism versus Arminianism debate 30 different times that excites me. Plus, there are a lot of assigned readings, which — as an English education major — is plenty of reason to enjoy being in college. Your job is to read books! 

If there’s anything I learned at the age of 13 while watching “Gilmore Girls” for the very first time, it’s that reading is cool, because Jess Mariano reads. Especially in public with a thoughtful look on your face. 

The anxious experience of freshman year feels like a distant memory, but suddenly the “immature college student” personality doesn’t look as good as when I was an 18-year-old freshman. I’m in a weird limbo where I’m too old to be driving my car over 95 mph but I’m too young to consider myself a full-time adult with a whole-term life insurance policy and a 30-year mortgage. 

I’m almost to the age of the characters in season one of “Friends.” It’s a crazy thought to be as old as Ross and Rachel, who I grew up watching when I was a teenager. Soon I will no longer be able to use “college student” as the defining adjective anytime I introduce myself. At no other point that I know of (but what do I know, I’m only 22) will I be surrounded by this many willing participants to do dumb activities, with this much freedom and this little responsibility. When else am I going to fit 15 guys in my dorm room to watch “Gilmore Girls” every Tuesday night? (True story.)

To some of my peers, May isn’t arriving soon enough. They just want to graduate, get a job and decorate their own apartment. I’m still trying to figure out how many hoodies are considered appropriate for a college graduate. My guess is three, but I don’t know the dress code yet.

Let’s travel back to 2008. I’m in a bright green graduation gown, waiting to receive my diploma for graduating kindergarten. All I could think about was what a shame it was to move up to elementary school. I loved kindergarten, and the last thing I wanted was to ruin a good thing. The school day would be twice as long, recess only occurred once halfway through the day and there was no time designated for napping! I stood there waiting patiently in front of the stage with a stoic look of disapproval. I did not want to graduate from kindergarten. 

Fast forward to the present day, and I’m standing in front of a much larger symbolic stage feeling the same reluctant attitude toward change, about to graduate college. When coming upon a new chapter in life, I find myself focusing more on what I’m about to lose rather than the new challenges and opportunities that lay ahead. But similar to what I learned walking into that first-grade classroom following my kindergarten graduation, the next chapter usually isn’t as daunting as the anxiety I conjure up in my head. This is just the first time the next chapter in my life doesn’t involve more school. 

Except as a future educator, I guess my career is just going back to high school, so scratch that.

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