Right when I graduated from high school, countless adults suddenly seemed to line up so they could grab me by the shoulders and look into my eyes with urgency in order to tell me this: “College will be the best four years of your life! Don’t forget that!”
18-year-old-me really liked hearing that. I was so happy to be done with high school, a period of time marked with great social dissatisfaction, but also with great expectation. I couldn’t wait for college, for a time that would be a refreshing and socially gratifying experience marked by spontaneous adventures and lecture topics (and let’s be honest here: boys/men/man-boys) I actually was interested in!
I was like Pip from Charles Dickens’ penultimate novel Great Expectations: setting out to the great unknown with a grand vision for the future. And even though I had three brothers, two parents, and two grandparents who attended the same college I found myself going to, my expectations for college as a whole were quite misinformed.
Freshman year I realized I had too high of expectations for how fast I’d make friends. Sophomore year I discovered the disappointment of expecting to be able to handle responsibility, only to find my own ability to be lacking. Junior year I realized my odd expectations for dating at college weren’t coming to fruition.
And now it’s senior year. And I’m finally realizing that expectations never live up to reality. I didn’t expect it to be like this, but I’m also realizing that’s really, very, sincerely okay.
My expectations for what life would be like by or during senior year have been so completely and totally off.
When I came here, I expected to finish my senior year with a clear plan and such assurance of my opinions. Instead I’m realizing that senior year sometimes feels a lot like my freshman year with its fears, its social anxieties, and its unknown factors—just in a different context. Instead I realized that it’s okay to not have a clear plan or know the answer, because my life isn’t an Excel spreadsheet with a bunch of computed formulas ready to add together.
When I came here, I expected to finish my senior year lamenting my graduation. Instead, my second-to-last semester of college is nearly over, and it has been made very clear to me that I will be very ready to graduate in May. I’m ready to bid adieu to the Saturdays of homework guilt, and the annoyance of always trying to schedule meal dates with people so I don’t have to eat alone. Instead I’m seeing how God prepares us to say goodbye in both easy (the prospect of final exams) and hard ways (realizing you’re missing out and will miss out), and that there’s a strange beauty in that.
When I came here, I expected to finish senior year with a man by my side. Instead I am single and have been the whole time I’ve been here. And instead I have been able to see that value is found outside of our human attachments, and that a good future lies ahead of me no matter what my relationship status is now or ever will be.
When I came here, I expected to finish senior year with a degree in Entrepreneurship. Instead I will graduate with a BA in Communication Studies and English after having changed my major and minor combination 4 times. Instead I discovered a great love for graphic design, and writing—two things I didn’t think I’d ever love or want to pursue on a professional basis but now do.
When I came here, I expected to finish senior year with a whole set of exciting stories that I’d be super proud to tell my kids about. Instead I’m realizing that the moments I cherish the most from college and my penultimate senior year have been the quiet moments, not the crazy, loud, raging events. Instead I’m realizing my most joyful times of senior year so far have been made in dorm rooms the night before a big test, or in apartment kitchens trying to sort through rotten produce, or on a run at 6:30 in the morning.
When I came here, I expected that I’d leave with a giant clan of life-long friends my age. Instead I’m leaving with a small group of sisters my age and with a couple of sets of second-parents who all have become more than friends: they have become like family. Strength isn’t just in numbers, and my life isn’t a collection of trophies and stats.
When I came here, I expected for my life to take such a different path. I didn’t expect senior year would feel like this. Some days are excruciatingly lonely. And some days have simple moments of loveliness. Either way, I’m realizing that every single day of every single week of every single month of every single year has taken the path it was supposed to take, and it will continue on that trajectory into the years that follow “the best four years of my life.”
These have been good years, and I know I’ll miss them. There’s things we miss from every season of life, things we wish we could repeat, things we took for granted. Back in high school, when those people who told me these college years would be the best four years of my life, I know they weren’t trying to lie to me, but they were wrong.
While these four years have been the best four years of my life so far, I’m also not willing to let it lie there. In this season of Advent—a season of waiting—I am humbled by and grateful for the truth.
I am reminded that the best has yet to come.
And that’s not just another ill-conceived expectation I have—that’s a reality.
|| Psalm 16 ||