I loved college visits as a high schooler.
My mom and I (and sometimes my dad) would travel the country to various universities, take tours, and get gift bags full of branded pens, tablets of paper, random lanyards, and enough pamphlets to fill an office supply store. The anticipation and energy buzzed in the air, possibilities fluttered through my veins, and excitement centered itself as the predominant emotion as we researched and experienced what each school had to offer.
Prayerfully narrowing down each university was overwhelming and exciting, challenging and wonderful, and I loved every second.
But no one prepares you for the post-graduation college visit.
No one tells you to bring a kayak so you can paddle your way through the flood of emotions that assault your senses when you walk back through campus, the one where you met your closest friends, studied your brains out, and dreamed of the future through thick, rose-colored glasses.
No one tells you how hard it is to adult sometimes, how awesome university life is with ten thousand of your closest friends just outside your door, or how much you might struggle (even years later) with the transition away from them.
December will mark four years since I walked across a stage in a bulky black gown and funny shaped hat to shake a few hands and receive a fake diploma rolled up and tied with a bow. No one tells you life doesn’t stay that neat and tidy. No one tells you the paper will get crumpled and the bow will fall off.
Okay, maybe no one should actually have to tell you that. We should know it already because, after all, we’re intelligent university graduates for crying out loud. We shouldn’t have to be warned that life is hard.
But my naive heart wasn’t prepared for the loneliness that sometimes sucks the air out of your lungs or for the staggering weight of certain decisions that threaten to take you under the gushing current.
My best friend and I invested four years of our lives at Murray State (six for her, since she’s about to graduate with her masters).
It’s our campus, our school, our live memory book. Today we walked the grounds and reminisced of the days spent upon them. As we walked, the memories hit like bullets, some soft and some brutal, as we seemingly involuntarily spilled story after story of the adventures shared and how we didn’t then realize how wonderful that season really was.
In the quad, we saw so many people taking graduation photos and talking in their respective friend groups. They laughed and held hands and spoke about feeling awkward, while discussing exams and dreams, plans and projects. It was sweet and charming and picturesque but we wanted to tell all of them, “Don’t graduate! Stay in college! Remember these moments. Life gets so hard after this.” Because even though everyone is in a hurry to leave there comes a day when you just want to run back.
You’ll want to run back to familiarity that’s as warm as a beloved blanket, to a place whose edges are polished smooth after years of sanding, and to a space where virtually every spot contains what feels like a lifetime of memories.
Don’t get me wrong, post-grad life is awesome.
It’s phenomenal not to have to read textbooks (although I do miss that occasionally. #nerd) or attend those less-than-desirable classes. It feels great to have a good job and build something that resembles a stable routine. It’s nice to read the books you want and watch movies without feeling like you should be studying instead.
But I wish I could go back and savor the seconds of college with this perspective, the one that realizes a little more fully how awesome that four year season of life really was.
So, college students (or future college students), if you happen to read this: memorize each moment. Focus on the architecture. See the beauty around you (in both the campus and in each of your classmates). Nourish your soul with the truth that says, despite whatever hardships and struggles and senioritis you might be encountering, this season is a gift. Treat it like one. Have all the adventures. Stay up later. Wake up earlier. Eat as much pizza as you can. Go on walks. Talk to all the people. Travel as much as possible. Eat ice cream for breakfast. Make all the memories.
Because one day those are all you’ll have.