Summer is nearing its end and it feels like no time has passed at all. As I look forward (literally not figuratively) to my senior year at Georgetown, I’m greeted with the realization that I don’t want to go back to being a student.
I don’t want to be trapped in a school system that coddles me, in the little undergraduate community whose focus, I’ve come to realize, is so narrowly based on grades and weekend house parties. It’s so far removed from ‘real life.’ Yes, the very same real life I feared last year as my junior year came to a close.
This summer, I think (in my own naïve way) that I experienced a little taste of real life. From working a job, working an internship, managing my house’s utilities and rents, cooking my own meals, and being fully in charge of how I spend my time, money and energy, going to a life ruled by a college student’s schedule, by assignments, midterms and finals, and punctuated by this week’s “rager” is less than exciting.
When I thought about it some more, I decided it was not fair to characterize “student life” as not “real life.” What I had called “student life” may be the stereotypical depiction of a college student’s life but not all students lead that sort of life. I’m sure there are plenty of students who are able to juggle school work, internships, friends and partying, to see the bigger picture outside of the university gates. I was just not one of them
I want to change that.
I’ve tasted reality. I’ve worked double shifts and been tired beyond belief. I’ve also enjoyed and appreciated free time so much more than I ever have. I’ve woken up at 7:30 every morning of my own free will to, of all things (this is a big deal for those who know me), go to the gym and eat breakfast and get a good start to my day. I’ve sampled what it’s like to receive a paycheck that I earned through hard work and not through sitting for four hours at a work study job where I pretend to work but really am catching up on Facebook or doing my homework that’s due the next day. I’ve met people making livings, not wages that are spent on that weekend’s supply of cheap entertainment (wine and booze).
My days range from working doubles at a poorly managed restaurant to spending an ungodly amount of time in Starbucks, writing, reading and editing. I wake up each morning knowing what needs to be done and looking forward to doing it. Despite the lack of structure, the lack of a dean or advisor to guide me through the rough patches, or some requirement that I need to fulfill, I feel stable. Even more, I may even be satisfied. I’ve attained a sort of peace of mind knowing that I am the one fully responsible and in control of my life.
The summer has changed me, perhaps made me grow up a little. Interacting with Tyece (www.twentiesunscripted.com) online and in person, as well as all my co-workers at the restaurant and my boyfriend who has just begun his ‘real life’ after graduation has given me a new insight into what it means to be an adult, what it means to work, what it means to do what you love and what it means to sacrifice for it. It has posed questions that would take a whole new post each to answer (for example: how do adults make friends?) that are so much more worthwhile than “how many classes can I miss without it impacting my final grade?”
Perhaps saying so only reveals how untrue it is, but this summer I feel like I’ve become an adult. To me that means being fully accountable for the choices and priorities that I make and the expectation that said choices are respected. It’s the mutual acknowledgement of any party involved that I have the authority to make decisions about how I spend my time. Time being unbelievably finite, is an unfortunate and perishable resource to waste. So between hitting snooze to lay in bed for ten minutes, not sleeping and just getting up and having ten extra minutes today to call my family, talk to friends or have my boyfriend beat me at chess, whereas a couple years ago I would have absolutely chosen the former, now I undoubtedly do the latter.
What my future looks like, where it looks like and how it looks like are still questions I’m struggling to answer. I have no idea where I will be in the next year, much less next five years, but this summer has given me a glimpse, albeit unrealistic, of what my real life could be. It’s shown me that I can run my life, and that I don’t need the registrar, the advisor or the career center to help me out. Seeing the world beyond the gates in all of its vastness, with all of its imperfections, struggles and triumphs, I like what I see and I don’t want it to end. However, seeing as I have no choice but to go back to student life, back to that hole where I spend every waking moment between the states of exhausted and miserable, I’m going to try to take as much of the real life with me.