The “Best Years of My Life” Were a Lie

Someone lied to me. I was led to believe that college would prepare me for life. I was told that that piece of paper that I worked so hard to obtain would open doors for me and allow me to get my foot in. It was conveyed to me that college would teach me life skills and that once I made it through the shit show of four years I would know how to live like an adult. And someone allowed me to believe that that someone else could hand me all of the answers. I trusted in an institution and I had faith in an organized approach with clearly outlined steps. I had to take certain classes to advance onto other ones, I was allowed to develop my own schedule and I squeezed in time at work whenever I could. I participated in an internship that humbled my ego and taught me the meaning of hard and unrewarding work. And I studied abroad to take in other cultures and learn a different way to approach life. I valued every learning experience I had during those four years and clung to them as i was told these experiences would get me through the rest of my life. But someone had lied to me — and although those years built a foundation of knowledge and experience, they were nothing in comparison to what experiencing life had to teach me.

Now that I am more than four years past the years that were supposed to define me, I see college as a blip on the scheme of what life has to offer. I see that although those years were vital in teaching me many things, they were not the cheat sheet I had hoped they might be. I still did not know how to accept a role of management and responsibility with grace instead of panic. And I had no idea how to create working standards of my own. I did not consider what it meant to have a work-life balance and I had written off hobbies as relics of my childhood. I was not confident in making friends that were not exactly my age and I found it difficult to relate my college experiences to the new peers life surrounded me with. There was so much that college actually sheltered me from versus exposed me to, to the point that I thought I had seen everything when in reality I had seen barely anything life had to offer at all. This does not place any less value on those pivotal years of development, but I wish that someone would have told me to take the pressure off. I wish that someone would have relayed that post college there is so much more to be learned still, and that I should have been developing habits versus looking for the answers all those years. I should have been teaching myself how to find answers and learning how to work with others in confidence. I should have been keeping an eye on the horizon for the new and exciting versus relying on the old ways that worked for generations before me. I needed to not praise my professors as the ultimate word on professionalism and realize that no one had all the answers I was looking for. I needed to see that we are all simply human, and we are all just figuring it out as we go. And I needed to accept that I would still make mistakes and that I would always be learning. I had to realize that I could not fit in all of my fuck-ups into four years and I could not expect to have the most exciting times in my life to coincide with a designated time for irresponsibility. I put too much pressure on the four year experience that I forgot to look forward to the many years that would come after it.

So I can’t place all of the blame on others for building up an experience that held so much promise. I can’t find fault in the value they place on the four years that they experience in their lifetime. But I cannot take the same value from four years that they did. I needed to define value for myself and I needed to admit that there was much more life to be lived after college. I lied to myself and told myself that those were the only four years that mattered and those were the years that defined me. But as I grow older, I know that that was all a lie I told myself to comfort me about the unknown and what life would hand me when there was no clearly outlined plan. I know that I relied too heavily on the help and guidance of others. I know that I adopted crutches that only hindered my development versus encouraged it. I could blame it on the alcohol or I could blame it on the cloud of smoke that constantly surrounded my head, but the truth is that I was not ready to face what life was about to throw at me. I was not prepared to face the world and I lied to myself to comfort me and give me faith that I could continue on. I followed the plan of higher education for four years to the T and trusted that all the hard work would get me somewhere, anywhere in the end. But with such low expectations and a foundation built on lies, all I was left facing at the end of four years was even more hard work. It never ends, and I never want it to. Because finding all of the answers in my youth would have been nice, but it would have lead me down a direct path that would have denied me from taking detours in life. If I had a clear plan, that’s all I would have ever focused on and I would have denied myself the simple pleasure of meandering through life and taking joy in the unexpected experiences. if I had followed the plan, I would have graduated, found a job, worked my way up to management and lived contently for the rest of my life. But I took a different approach — I wandered the world and took a chance on new opportunities; I said yes to buying plane tickets and I said why not when I was offered more responsibility; I took time to smell the flowers and I put in more time paying my dues. I do not regret a single move I made, and I ended up in the same place in the end with a different view on it all. I still find myself in a management role with responsibility I would have never dreamed of obtaining when I was 18 years old. And I still am living in random locations around the world with my eye always set on a new one. I combined what I was supposed to do with what I have the capacity and desire to do, and I have found a life that works for me. I wish someone would have told me that this was possible, but then again maybe it was something that I had to discover for myself in my own time. I wish someone would have told me all of the answers to life’s constant questions, but then again cheating was never really my style. I wish someone would have hinted that life would be a constant battle to experience, learn, and change, but then again that was something that I knew all along.