Friday, August 16, 2013

College: Life Before Life

I think college is actually harder than life. But it depends on what you make of it.

Some lessons I've learned from my tenure*

#1: Do not bite off more than you can chew. It will chew you.
I did this every semester of my undergrad, and it has some perks, like you will probably end up just knowing more, but you'll feel like a jerk the entire time and always wish you were doing more. Half-assing 12 things < Whole-assing 6 things, especially when it comes to building transferrable skills like Western Blotting or that thing where it sounds like the record is screeching on the turntable.

#2: When the opportunity arises to prove yourself, do not choke.
College is structured so you're constantly behind. You usually will only have one-to-two chances to prove yourself in any area. Don't assume you can let something go. Bring your A-game every time. If you are afraid you won't be able to handle the pressure, give yourself less pressure. That's okay. You will still accomplish more than you could imagine.

#3: Give yourself leeway.
Participate extra in case you have to miss class. Make contacts with professors you don't even need to know for your career because it will help you in some way-- if you switch careers, if you want to have a positive role model, or even just for practice talking to cool older people in positions of authority.

#4: Use your tongue.
I've tried it both ways. Tongue is better.

#5: Take time to culture yourself.
Take advantage of random events that are happening around you. Go to some talk you don't think you're in the mood for. Practice being curious, as Anders Holm said. Even better, go home from that talk and write a self-indulgent blog post about it, or get into an impromptu conversation with your roommate about it. Change your mind, and change other people's minds. That's what college is about.

#6: Do things for free.
Do something outside of schoolwork and outside of work that is still beneficial and productive for society. And do it for free.

#7: Don't keep good thoughts to yourself.
You know that first week where everyone wants to commit suicide?
You wonder if you're cut out for any social interaction at all, and you sort of hate other people. Or you cling to every longer-than-thirty-second interaction because you wonder if it'll lead to something greater than the deep loneliness of everyone having friends and you not having them and having them all still live with you.

For some reason half of everyone in college thinks it's a better idea to turn a cheek and act like they don't notice the mundane brilliance of others in their vicinity. Well, I whole-heartedly disagree and think college students should sing their hearts out to the free.

Just be a good person, and say things to other people! Let people know how you feel - if you want to date them, or if you think they're just so special, or if you liked that comment they made in discussion about the difference between conservationism and know, sappy stuff like that. We all need others in our lives, and we appreciate our existence being validated. Happy people shine light onto others.

#8: Remember that you ain't tryna decide your whole life right now.
It's okay to drop a class or take something that deviates from the Plan. You can choose to NOT do that research job that's going to tear asunder your entire schedule and you can join an improv troupe even if it has nothing to do with your goals in life. It's okay. Your college whole life is about exploring what you love, even if that's not something you can take a class in or put on your resume. Yes, I know, the economy! The ECONOMY. Believe me, the economy. Whatever. I wouldn't be employed right now if I hadn't been deviating from the Plan. Sure it has no healthcare, but I love it and am damn good at it.

#9: Start a band.
Okay, just kidding. But you should consider it! Or consider this one or this one. Or get a radioshow! Or do something that tests your resolve, problem-solving, initiative and requires you to have to spend time with, be creative and form solutions alongside other human beings.

#10: No glove, no love. And do NOT get behind that wheel after drinking. Oh and DON'T RAPE ANYONE.
I can't emphasize that last one enough. College is the time that most girls learn that they're unsafe and seemingly where dudes forget what their mama taught them about manners. Talking about rape and consent and assault is for another post, possibly for another blog -- but I encourage everyone to do their best to only hang out with people who see women primarily as people rather than commodities. I know we're a hook-up culture and whatever; let's make sure we take responsibility for our own actions and for each other's safety.

Also, don't hang out alone with someone after 2 AM unless they are a trusted, long-time friend. It could go great, but it could just be really weird and I'm not sure what would happen, but I'm pretty sure nothing good ever happens after 2AM:

#11: I say this all the time. But I say it again, dammit! First listen, then seek to be understood. It wouldn't be one of the seven damn habits if it weren't super legit. And actually listen! We all have trouble with this, but it's no good to be keeping a counter-narrative in your head along with someone you're trying to listen to. (I do this super lame thing sometimes where I'll try to guess what someone will say before they say it, and I'm literally always wrong.)
If you don't really listen (without judgment), you risk misremembering or not understanding and making a fool of yourself. It's surprising - people will be like "HOW DID YOU KNOW THAT?" and you'll be like, "Oh, I was listening."
In college, it's manifest by a failure to insert your own judgment into everything other people are doing and feeling and experiencing. It's also manifest by not repeating everything you ever hear directly to someone else, using discretion about what you say and don't say about others.

#12: Always use a colon when titling a term paper.
See examples:
French Foreign Policy in the Cold War Era: The Balance between International and Domestic Imperatives
The Post-Colonial Era: Colonialism Part 2?
The Writing of Things: Roy's Alliance With Language
Swallowing his World: Padma and Saleem's Relationship in Midnight's Children
College: Life Before Life

#13: Say yes.
There will be many days when you have a bunch of stuff you really should do and someone will ask you to go to the terrace with them, or try this new club they've been meaning to go to, or cover a story for them, or go see this new band-- say Yes.
Sometimes someone will come to you and tell you they're considering you for this really cool position that doesn't pay for something you really believe in; the Universe is helping you-- say yes.
So many great moments of my life have come from being flexible, spontaneous, and willing to accept the unknown. Saying yes in the face of uncertainty is a sign of courage and strength (and also, utter stupidity - you decide.)

#14: Say no.
Do what you want. Set your limits and make people abide by them. I have lost a lot of sleep by letting people think I was okay with what they wanted to do, or by saying yes to things I really didn't feel like doing. Be kind, but don't say yes to things you can't, don't want to, or will regret to have done. As you start to say no more, you will also learn how to better handle rejection.

#15: Rejection happens and you will learn that in college.
Sometimes it's for the dumbest of reasons like, you're not what we're currently looking for. Sometimes it's for the best reasons like, I'm married. But most of the time, it's kind of nebulous and you never really find out why, and sometimes, if, you were rejected. But it's the same every time. It sucks and for a while, you're like, why does no one love me? Will anything ever work out? Relax, muffin. Someone else will love you for the unicorn that you are.

Think about the other person/entity/applicants. 
-Maybe your advances are making him/her/it uncomfortable and you can change your approach.
-Maybe someone else is more qualified and maybe you should consider becoming more qualified. (Not applicable in relationship rejection, because you are the best person in the entire world and that loser sucks for not realizing it.)
-Consider asking what you could do to improve your chances in future, if this is a socially acceptable/possible move.
-If it doesn't seem like there's anything you could have changed, give yourself a high five/pat on the back for trying and putting yourself out there. Recognize that you learn something and become stronger with every attempt you make at doing something new or putting yourself out there.
-Consider that what you tried for is perhaps not something you actually want. What do you want?
-Realize that better things are coming, and be happy you have space for them.

I once had a span of time where I faced a ton of rejection and heart-wringing in romantic relationships, lots of almosts and maybes and maybe-ifs but then I finally found someone who was just perfect for me, and honestly so much better than all the people I had worried so much about before.
I then came to the conclusion that rejection is good.
Rejection simplifies our lives.
We don't always know what's best for us. And sometimes what's best for us blindsides us and we try to push it away and it just keeps staying and then we fall in love with it.

#16: A change can do you good.

Enjoy college and the independence it affords you. Remember, you alone decide whether this will be a positive experience. And, feel free to forget everything bad that happened and remember the good things. Also, punctuation goes within quotation marks! Now you know.

*(Sorry if this is super boring, it is mainly for the benefit of my brother.)

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