As different as every childhood is, I can almost guarantee that there is one memory we all share.
It starts with us wanting to grow up, and ends with an adult advising us to enjoy being a kid while we can.
Lately, I have been nostalgic for my childhood, when the days were long, tears made sense, and dreams were not balloons battling pins driven by doubt.
I have also been eager for my future. It is hard not to be, when the projection of possibility promises a greater freedom than that which I have presently.
However, the other day I had enough time to reflect on how good things are right here, right now, and it almost made me yearn for a time that wasn’t gone yet.
Enjoy it while you can.
It’s the memory, the memory we all have. The memory of someone superior in age advising us to appreciate what we have today.
It’s a memory I don’t want to duplicate. I don’t want my mom or dad or grandparent to have to tell me to cherish the now. I want to be the one to remind myself to find that balance between the past, present, and future, every day.
So, I made a list of the things I believe we college-aged people will miss ten years down the road.
1. Being equally dependent and independent.
We straddle the line between the two. And though dependency is usually defined as restrictive, and independence has the connotation of freedom, neither of these are fully accurate. It is the in-between that gives us the leeway we need to make it from one side to the next that a sweet form of freedom is found.
We get to live on our own and make our own choices without being fully responsible for other things, which may include all our bills, a retirement account, a family, or a mortgage. If we desperately need help, there is usually an adult in our lives that are willing to fill in until we’re back on our feet.
We are too old to be children and too young to be fully on our own. Being at an age where our support systems don’t necessarily expect us to have it all together gives us that flexibility we need, and along with that, a freedom that is unique to this period in our lives.
2. Living among a pool of peers.
My aunt once described college as one of the last institutions in which we are thrown into a large fishbowl of peers and get to make connections based on that structure. The more I thought about her statement, the more I realized how fantastic it was.
I make acquaintances, if not new friends, frequently. The rapidity at which connections are made on a weekend-to-weekend basis is astounding.
I was so used to this that I took it for granted until my aunt made her statement, making me recognize that linking up with people will not be as simple or casual as it is now.
3. Listing “student” as our current occupation.
If we cannot work due to an insane class schedule, we don’t have to.
If we do not want to go into detail about our aspirations or current career, we don’t have to.
“Student,” as a label, is sufficient. It is respected. Though most of us hold jobs while attending university, there is no societal label we have to defend or uphold based on the stereotypes that pair with career titles. “Student” is enough.
4. Lack of commitment.
We are allowed to explore relationships without having to make any permanent decisions. We are allowed to live on our own without putting down money on a house that we have to take care of in a town we have to choose for a career we invested time and money to get.
If we want to be single, we can. If we want to be in a relationship, we can. If we want to move next month to the edge of the country, we are burning few bridges and leaving little behind. We can be be unsure and sporadic because we have fewer promises to keep and fewer possessions to carry.
5. Less expensive travel opportunities.
Not only do student discounts exist (studentuniverse.com, anybody?), but so do travel opportunities through church groups, study abroad programs, and service project trips, all which usually cost much less now than they will when you’re first starting a career and don’t have that financial cushion your support group used to see as valid.
6. Looking for The One.
Starting a new relationship brings a lot of excitement, as does going out at night knowing you might look over and see that person that will change everything for the very first time.
Settling down with someone is, of course, the purpose of looking in the first place. And that is wonderful too, but in a different way than the search.
7. Owning very little.
As stated before under “Lack of Commitment,” with owning less brings more freedom.
We are constantly in a state of wanting more that the liberating aspect of having less possessions to be responsible for rarely crosses our minds. When we are older, holding down jobs that allow us to pay for the things we want, there will be a sudden surge of stress related to managing, protecting, and caring for that which we own. Enjoy the simplicity now.
Less clutter, more flexibility.
8. Our bodies.
My friend’s aunt once said, “It’s sad that the time we spend worrying so much about the way we look is the time in our life that we look our best!”
Her statement comes up now and again when I am caught in a web of self-criticism. Twenty years from now, I will be looking in the mirror as my mother does, critiquing new-found wrinkles, grey hair, and the effects of a slowed metabolism. And you know what? My mom looks great. If she thinks her looks have slipped now, then in twenty more years she will be ragging on herself even more intensely.
I’m working to stop that cycle in my twenties, and enjoy the body I have today. It puts up with a lot.
10. The Night Life
Yes, we can and will go out when we’re older. But as students, we have access to a wide variety of events.
In other words, there is always something going on.
11. Having time.
We’re still stuck in a phase that doesn’t truly allow us to understand that we will, someday, die.
How many times have you heard someone older than you say, “The time only goes by faster as you get older”?
We are still young enough to believe we have a lot of time left. The hourglass, for most of us, is only a fifth filled with sand at the bottom. Because of this, we should respect time and its workings. Just because we (most likely) have a lot of time, it doesn’t mean we should waste it. And if it’s true when they say that time only goes by faster as we age, then we shouldn’t wish for the end of the school year, the end of the month, or even the end of the work day. Take each day as it is.
12. Concentrating on yourself.
It has been proven that an important characteristic of young adulthood is self-focus.
Even the most mature of people aren’t always quite ready to be someone else’s caretaker, spouse, or employee. It is vital that in order to be a happy, functioning adults, we take the time and have the self-respect to find out what we want and need to feel accomplished and satisfied down the road.
There will come a time where it will be our job to be the facilitator of this step for someone else (i.e., a child). While you are boundless and it is expected of you, enjoy learning, growing, and making it clear to yourself what is important to you so that one day, you can do your job as a parent, spouse, employee, and human being.
13. The places we live.
The places we live, and the situations in which we live, change consistently during young adulthood. And, with each facility I have lived in, there have been pros and cons, all of which spurred growth, adjustment, and opportunities to learn and improve my independence.
Each facility has also forced me to create my own culture and figure out what it takes for me to feel comfortable and at home. With each room, I have invested enough time and effort establishing a place I love that leaving becomes difficult. This has taught me to love where I live now, because with change constantly around the corner, who knows where (or when) I’ll end up next?
14. The people we live with.
I have lived with a few different roommates, and with each living partner, I discovered something new about myself, made new friendships, and had unique opportunities arise in connection with them. Who we live with becomes a large part of the definition of the period of time spent living within the same vicinity. And though it becomes easy to go through day-to-day tasks, get used to one another, or sometimes barely speak/see one another due to an insane schedule, it is fun to remember and revisit the excitement and closeness felt upon the first few months together as your time as roommates come to a close.
Because I guarantee it–if you stayed friends the entire time, you will miss it.
15. The mystery.
It’s fun not to know. It is fun to be asked what you want, where you’re going, and what you hope for, and it is totally valid to shrug and say, “We will see.”
Stress often pairs with uncertainty, but that is what keeps the excitement in tact. Without strong emotion about an undefined future, the journey becomes less meaningful.
16. Skipping without penalty.
Face it–we all skip class now and again. I know a girl that literally never goes to class, and comes away with passing grades.
Not all college professors take attendance. Employers in the real world, however, do.
Go ahead. If you’re on top of things and you need that extra hour, hit the snooze button. You will only get to hide under your covers without penalty for an exclusive time in your life.
17. Constant change.
People who hate change might just come to crave it if things always stayed steady.
No year in college is ever the same. In fact, every semester is so different that it oftentimes feels like a completely separate year. With a revolving door of classes, relationships, professors, schedules, living situations, degrees of choice and seasonal events, college life is unpredictable, wonderful, awful, and out of control.
But then again…how boring would it be without the messiness?
18. Being young.
We are tanks of energy. We are able-bodied. We are strong and healthy. We can be restless and act on it, have access to several resources and are bursting with potential that the world thirsts to see.
We are tomorrow.
But, we’re also today. And today is not to be undermined. Today is the day we should tell ourselves to enjoy being a young adult while we can.
After all, we’re old enough now that we don’t need our parents to tell us to enjoy it. We can do that ourselves.