Peter Pan always told us to never grow up and we defied him at every turn. We grew more and more excited to go to college. For many, it was the first taste of real freedom. We went to parties and explored our college towns. We supported our college’s sports teams on the weekends. We made friends that we know we will keep for the rest of our lives. But we never truly thought that this time would actually end. With graduation looming for many, that inevitable doom lurks over our heads.
I’m here to tell you not to panic and to just appreciate what time you have left.
I always wanted to grow up quickly. My older brother turned into my role model in that aspect. Seeing all of the cool things he got to do each year sparked an excitement in me like no other. It doesn’t help that our age gap of four years exposed me to the perks of being an adult before I turned fourteen. He went off for college and came back with incredible stories of his experiences. I ran to my friends with wide-eyes to tell them how I couldn’t wait to be a grown-up to experience it all for myself.
I suppose that spark pushed me even harder when I started my sophomore year of high school. I learned of dual enrollment courses and how I could start college earlier than my peers. Not only did the aspect of a few years of free college call to me, it turned into my chance of finally becoming an adult. At least, I thought it would give me some of the privilege that came along with the extra responsibility of being a “college” student.
Little did I know that it would only bring me a yearning sense of nostalgia for my younger days only a few years down the line.
I excelled in the classes I took during my high school years. Luckily enough for me, I even graduated high school with my Associates in Arts degree. My mother definitely turned this into a bragging feature with all of our relatives. That giddy excitement of starting college early and working so hard to get those two years done only blossomed into sheer joy once I transferred to Trinity Washington University. Not only did I have two years of college tucked under my belt, I finally turned eighteen. It seemed like all the pieces fell into place.
The university accepted all of my transfer credits, placing me right into the courses directly involved with my major. I still remember just how ecstatic it made me feel to know that I would graduate within two years. My college experience turned into a rushed blur. Between a global pandemic and only one real semester on campus, I now regret ever rushing through my degree. I never experienced any tailgates or crazy college parties. I never completed any wild feat that would let me be known on campus long after I left. I kept my head down and focused entirely on my studies. Like I planned, I graduated within those two years. I then decided to go onto start my Master’s in English from Arizona State University.
Now, all of that excitement faded.
I am stuck in my house, scrolling through old photos. I yearn to go back to the happy memories I experienced. I see what my friends still in college do on their Snapchats and my heart sinks even more. I wish I could go back in time to smack my eighteen year-old self. I would tell her that while everything she does feels great at that moment, she will regret it in the future. I hate that I rushed through those pivotal years of my life.
I am only a year out from graduating with my Master’s degree. With my final graduation coming closer, I am starting to realize that I need to appreciate living day to day. Even if I am not on campus, the experiences I have now won’t be waiting for me in the future. My entire life will change in the span of a year, just like it had only a few years ago. While you might hope to rush things and get out into the real world, I recommend stepping back and recognizing what surrounds you. Look at your friends and the things you do daily. Certain things might annoy you, like homework and tests, but there will come a time where you miss those days. Try to live each day as if you might never experience it again. I promise you that your future self will appreciate it more than you know.