Growing up, I always knew I wanted to go to college. I knew I wanted to learn as much stuff as I could and become really, really good at whatever it was that I would study. My excelling at college wasn’t ever really a question at the time because for some reason, my seven year old mind had yet to come to terms with the sobering experience of failure.
I was a little perfectionist. A naïve, sensible and weirdly organized for someone my age- perfectionist. Although, at the time I had no idea what being a perfectionist was. I just knew that I enjoyed numbering the pages in my Spice Girls notebook and organizing my Barbies into little families that I believed to be the most stable and diverse.
Some girlfriends of mine were busy dreaming of their future weddings, where as I…not so much. I was at home wearing some sort of hat I created out of construction paper while pretending to teach a bunch of stuffed animals how to spell in between reading and watching a movie whose main character was a live seal. I was different (different and cool can be used interchangeably here).
By the time I got to college, my actual experiences had almost nothing in common with the way my seven year old self imagined them to be. I had no idea what to major in, no dream school in mind, and honestly no real thoughts for where I wanted to land in the future.
I picked a random major that I assumed I would find some sense of job security in (for me it was Elementary Education) at a random school somewhat close to home. I moved in to my dorm with my best friend at what would be a very mediocre and short lived college experience at that particular campus.
I’m not the most school-spirited person so attending any sporting event was almost always out of the question. The town which housed my school closed each day around five or six PM because apparently the entire town was inhabited by Mormons or the elderly.
I learned three very important things that semester:
1. I don’t want to ever settle for something in my life that I’m not 100 percent passionate about.
2. Kids are the worst.
3. Going to a school you don’t like only makes it easier to skip classes to take naps and/or hang out with friends.
The following semester I transferred into a local community college to take some pre-requisite courses until I figured out what I wanted to major in. At the time, this sounded like an excellent idea. I was managing to stay involved in school while also saving some money.
Unfortunately, the community college I went to had all of the organizational skills of a bus full of the same elderly people going out to eat at the local Golden Corral in the town that housed my previous school.
Many of the professors weren’t thrilled to be there and began to just phone it in after week two. Many of the students also hovered around that same level of excitement. In fact, I’m pretty sure one of my professors was living out of the classroom at one point.
More than one advisor tried to get me to take courses I didn’t need to take and re-enroll in ones that I already did. A lot like when your grandmother gives you the same sweater she gave you the year before or compliments you on it having forgotten that she was the one who gave it to you in the first place.
As exciting of an experience as that was I decided it was time to apply to a different school to protect my sanity and further my learning (but mostly the sanity thing).
I crossed my fingers and applied for the one school that I knew I wanted to go to. I waited for months and anxiously checked the mail each day. One day the letter came and I was accepted. I’d be lying if I said I was overly excited. I mean, I was glad I got accepted but I think my previous experiences with schooling kind of dampened my sparkler or some stupid saying that people who say things say.
Before I knew it the first day came and went and it was freaking awesome.
Things were finally starting to make sense and I was eager. In the two short years I attended the school I learned more than I ever had before. I learned about Sociology. I learned about Gender Studies. I learned about society and institutionalized racism and feminism. I learned the works of Bell Hooks and Michel Foucault. (Yes, I’m aware these things probably don’t excite you as much as they do me, but shit I was happy. And that has to count for something, right?)
For the first time since I was seven, I remembered what I always told myself and I kept my word. I excelled in school and was passionate about what I was learning. Even more than that I learned a lot about myself; I learned I wanted to help others, make a difference and write.
I learned that we’re all still that little kid running around their backyard trying to set goals and have fun and escape. And yes, the pages of my Spice Girls notebook are still numbered and I wouldn’t have it any other way.