As you college freshpeople, including my youngest sister, set off on your first college semester, there’s something you should know. Your parents (and other people who “just don’t get it”) may fail to treat you like the adults you are.
I get it. You have dreams, and you are going to change the world! You are spreading your fledgling wings, like young hawks coasting on a stiff nor’easter and tens of thousands of borrowed federal dollars. Yet the older adults in your life keep nagging. I recommend that you put up with them as best you can, because they have tender, loving reasons for their hovering, pestering behavior: they don’t trust you.
But this isn’t their fault! So-called “science” has brainwashed them into thinking that the impulse control function in your brains is not yet fully operational. They believe that your addled mind will coax you into risky behaviors, such as transforming the campus fountain into a Jell-O mixer or, worse, majoring in philosophy.
For once, both “science” and your parents are absolutely right. Your brains are a game of pick-up sticks played with cooked spaghetti.
This is a good thing! Your brains will never again be as flexible as they are right this moment. Use that ol’ tangle of noodles to Find Yourself. Branch out from the family tree. Escape your parents’ failed dreams and skedaddle out from under the shadow of your admittedly perfect older brother.
As an unlicensed journalist who writes columns anyway, I can vouch that college isn’t about an “education” or a “career.” It’s about doing whatever you want for four—or, increasingly, eleven—of the most vibrant years of your life. For the first time since middle school, you are free from the social pressures of high school, unless of course you join a fraternity, sorority, or other gang. Forge your own paths, freshfolks!
If forging your own anything intimidates you, take a page from my own personal playbook. One incident in particular is still envied across my alma mater, probably: We Throw Rocks at Each Other for Fun, Officer. And that’s not to mention the wild ride known as Trying To Flush a Full Garbage Bag Down the Toilet, nor the thrill-seeking adventure of Getting a B+ in Heidegger.
Granted, people did not have smartphones in my day. So if you want to have such guaranteed fun without it being held against you by the National Security Agency and/or your grandparents, you will have to download a time-machine app and travel to an era when “social media” meant a three-way phone call.
What I mean to say is, I do not personally know how difficult it is to untag myself in a photograph depicting someone—NOT me, probably—wearing a toilet seat like an Elizabethan collar. You freshbodies must navigating those waters on your own. But I do know another thing, which is that certain college activities are universal and timeless.
Ah yes. Freshdudes and freshdudettes, prepare yourselves for simpler and messier, if more reliable, college pastimes. These activities open the horizons of the mind, shatter conservative notions of intimacy, and set the foundations for a lifetime of sensory exploration.
I’m talking, of course, about eating at the dining hall.
Any freshhuman knows that a ten-dollar-a-plate buffet will never taste as delicious as free pizza. With this basic understanding of the frugality-to-yummy ratio, you already understand more about economics than anyone in the Irish government. Yet schools have to pay for football coaches’ salaries somehow, which is why admissions advisors hornswaggle parents into signing you up for 42 meals per week at the campus dining hall. Sure enough, after your first taste of “Mexican Monday,” you will return only when you need leftovers with which to build the final project for your Modern Art course.
Believe it or not, college freshindividuals are not the only people coping with transitional periods right now. For instance, Congress may or may not be in an unfamiliar phase called “in session,” when its members must—this is an untested theory—locate their own seats inside the Capitol building.
Others are going through more severe traumas, yet making much less fuss in the realm of lawn signs. These people are parents, guardians, and other former caretakers of college students. As they see it, their babies have just entered the Big Cruel World, and the Big Cruel World is rife with other people’s much less perfect children.
To these folks, I’d like to offer a word of comfort: Well before going to college, your babies have already “been there and done that,” whatever extracurricular “that” you most dread. Only now, they don’t have to sneak behind your back! I find that to be a refreshing thought.
Besides, you can trust your babies to survive in the wild. They’ve already downloaded the app for finding free pizza.
This piece of Fool’s Gold ran originally on the New Mexico Mercury.
(Featured image, “Down the Toilet,” copyright Lynda W1 on Flickr via a Creative Commons Attribution License.)