I know you’re counting down the days.
I know you’ve memorized the deadlines for your final exams and projects and 20-page papers. I know you’re being propelled by coffee and energy drinks and the crushing anxiety of deadlines. I know because I was there Wednesday at the Main Library. And right as the computer froze, half my project was lost, and I realized one deadline was two hours sooner than I thought it was, it hit me.
This was it. Since I was 7 years old, I have felt the frenzy of school work deadlines. It is my original stressor, and I likely never will feel it again.
And I felt sad.
It wasn’t a logical emotion, but I felt it. And with deadlines looming, it wasn’t a logical decision to stop working and take a look around. But I did. And in the middle of a completely normal day, I felt immensely grateful for the chance to be stressed out for finals. Because it meant I was in college — a place I came to appreciate rather late in the game.
College didn’t turn out how I thought it would. From the day I stepped on campus, I’ve been juggling a 40-plus hour-a-week job with two majors. It’s been stressful and tiring. My day ends in the early hours of the morning and the weekend finds me drained. I’ve lost sleep, friends, hobbies and sanity committing myself to a career in a medium said to be dying.
Granted, if I could go back, I would make every decision a second time because I’ve seen the rewards of hard work. But it wasn’t the college I imagined it to be.
In spring 2012, I left. Taking a semester off, I moved to Washington, D.C. for an internship. I fell in love with the city and the work and the people I met. I got another internship, and another. I took a whole year off from college and found the adventures, hobbies and relationships I hadn’t had time for in the previous three years.
But every once in a while, I would find myself missing East Lansing. I sometimes wished I could be sitting in a lecture hall taking notes or going out knowing a plethora of bars, late-night food and all my friends were in walking distance. I missed passing the Red Cedar River and Beaumont Tower en route to class and jingling my keys at football games. There is something special about a community where everyone is united through a simple “Go Green.”
Looking around the library Wednesday, I saw the sleep deprived, stressed-out students hunched over papers and books. I felt a kinship of sorts — we all worked hard to get here and are working hard to finish. We all want to contribute something to society. We are all full of fears and dreams and potential.
Outside the window was a campus tailored to let me reach that potential. From resources and clubs to late-night delivery places, East Lansing caters to the fact I am young, poor and determined. And no part of that is more important than the people.
To the professors who checked their emails at midnight and didn’t mind if the discussions went past the official office hours. To the alumni who took the time to meet with me and give me advice on how to get where they are. To the friends who stayed up late with me, listened to my rants, celebrated my accomplishments, encouraged my schemes and laughed until we couldn’t breathe.
To the coworkers who are just as insane and determined as I am that they too will make an indent in society.
This is the lifeblood of a college town. It exists elsewhere, but it is not as vibrant and strong as it is here.
I left once before. This time, I won’t be back.
So I’ll take the stress and the frenzy and the late nights if it means I have the friends and the early mornings and the traditions and the family.
At least for the next week, I have something that is not likely to exist anywhere else in my life.
So, put down this paper or look away from the computer screen and be in this moment.
You’re in college. And even if you’ve only begun, the time is passing faster than you think.