“Enjoy it. These will be the best days of your entire life.”
While these words were once an anthem of hope, they now rang in my ears like a bad omen. I was sitting in my bed with a mug of pumpkin spice coffee and a laptop open to a livestream of the college football team from back home. My feet were tucked into wool socks, my hair in wet bun. It was the day after my birthday, Labor Day weekend of my freshman year. The friends I had made so far were with their families, who had come to visit for the holiday. The day before had been all right. I hadn’t been sure about celebrating my birthday away from home so soon after coming to school, but my new friends had been more than kind.
Now I had a pile of cards on my desk and leftovers from my birthday meal in my mini fridge, but I was completely alone. Homesickness crept in and, with it, echoes of the phrase that I had heard before I left. The best days of my entire life? If watching a football game on a laptop, alone in my pajamas, was the best life was going to get, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to grow up.
When midterms came around, the phrase haunted me again. I was running on all-coffee, no-sleep, eyes red from staring at my laptop, fingers cramped and ink-stained from typing and writing. My social life had been nonexistent for the past three days. Not that I didn’t have friends. I just didn’t have time for anything but study guides and final essays. Best days of my life.
Late nights at driving around, music blaring, ice cream dripping down my hand. Saturday morning conversations with housemates over brunch and French-press coffee. Camping trips and road trips and spur-of-the-moment concerts. Still, the phrase came like a whisper that warned me: “Enjoy it, because the fun ends as soon as you walk the stage.” I had these moments of panic interspersed with times of disappointment. Although those who had said it meant it in no such way, telling me that my college days were going to be the best days of my life was more detrimental than helpful. It was a conversation with another college student that opened my eyes to the danger of such a phrase.
College is a unique experience. There will be days of nail-biting and hair-pulling, and days of deep laughs and priceless moments. These may be some of the most memorable days. They may be some of the worst days. That is okay. The college experience is hyped up through social media and romanticized memories of aging relatives. Each individual’s experience is unique, and will have its own struggles and rewards. What the college experience is not is the defining point of one’s life. Time will go on, and things will change, but that does not mean that college is the peak of one’s existence. It is a time to be enjoyed, not to be idolized.