A Lot Of People Go To College For Seven Years: The Beginning of the End

The Bacon-laureate

BRRRAAAP BRRRAAAP BRRRAAAP BRRRAAAP BRRRAAAP.

It’s 6:30 in the morning, and it seems like my alarm clock has never been more determined to let me know than it has on this day. As I blindly smack at the snooze button while still buried in my pillow, I half-consciously wonder to myself why in the blue hell I chose to wake up at such an hour. Five minutes later, the alarm again BRRRAAAPs itself like BRRRAAAPing is going out of goddamn style. I flip over, slowly sit up, and as my eyelids take their sweet time to open up, I see a backpack sitting at my bedroom door. Right.

Back. To. School.

It’s September 4, 2012, and this Tuesday morning is far more special than any other first day of school for yours truly: mainly, because it’s the LAST first day of school. Yes, after seven long years of toiling in the collegiate system (which is attributed to spending the first three years of it part-time and then eventually changing my major three times, NOT because I decided to become a real-life Tommy Boy), this is the much-awaited home stretch for Christiaan Tarbox, soon-to-be Professional Journalism degree-holder. Am I excited? Am I nervous? Maybe a bit of both. Probably. But then again, it’s another year of school, so no matter how you frame it, it’s still gonna suck.

As I roll out of bed and hop into the shower, I try my damnedest to become fully awake. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, and I’ve been trying to cut down on my soda intake, but considering the haul I’m taking on this semester, caffeine will probably be my bestest buddy in the whole world. Hurriedly shoveling cereal into my maw as I look at the time, I throw on some clothes, race out of my apartment, and head for the bus stop. And then came the first stresser of the day. Despite meticulously planning out my class and bus schedule and leaving with enough time to catch my ride on the very first day of school, I MISS THE BUS.

Fuck.

So there was Inconvenience #1, right on time. As I pace around the bus stop waiting for the next ride– it’s either that or walk home and drive to school, because why the hell wouldn’t I want to spend $10 for a few hours of parking, it’s not like I have to pay for food or rent or anything– I try to start thinking rationally. Dude, it’s just the first day of class, a lot of students are probably gonna be late, it’s commonplace, your professor will understand. It’s cool, brah. Just take it easy. As the bus finally arrives– twelve minutes before my first class starts– I promise myself that upon arriving at campus, I’ll just play it cool. No need to rush, no need to stress. It’s just college. I’ll just walk to class, and if I’m late for my very first day of my last year of college, it won’t be a big deal.

So as I’m running to my first class in a massive panic, I arrive at my first Journalism class already tired, stressed, and completely unenthusiastic towards the next nine months. I plop down in my seat. As we wait for our instructor to enter the room, I look out the window, wistfully staring at the sun and wishing that I could be in bed while eating Mesa Pizza and watching stupid cat videos online.

As the classes piled on throughout the day, I had that same sense of extreme anxiety and frustration that’s to be expected for a college student. The giant amount of reading material. Those intimidating, bold-print exam and report deadlines on the syllabi. I’m hungry and I’m currently not in the mood for Diet Coke and Funyons. Realizing that, oh wait, it turns out that suddenly there’s about six more textbooks that I have to buy even though I had already purchased what was listed online a week earlier. My ass hurts from sitting in these chairs. Holy shit, there’s, like, three hundred students in this class. I’m still hungry. Those Funyons are beginning to look edible to me. And then I start thinking about looking for internships, and figuring out my final semester capstone courses, and worrying about figuring out when to do twelve to fifteen hours’ worth of homework a week when I also have a job and friends and a family and a girlfriend and WHEN WILL IT END?!

But then I gotta sit back, calm down, and just think about my situation. As much as I detest the day-to-day college life, am I really that stoked to leave it all behind?

For the last seven years, I’ve had an oft-tumultuous and alternately fulfilling and maddening journey towards getting that diploma. And even though I should be excited about finally reaching my goals, I’m also kind of terrified. School has been my routine for more than twenty years– from the finger painting and nap breaks of preschool all the way to the final exams and twenty-page essays of college– and the thought of not having that routine next fall is almost jarring. At last, “real life” beckons. I will be that much closer to becoming the mythical creature that every Toys ‘R Us kid worries about becoming: a “grown-up”.

It’s kind of like the character Brooks Hatlen from The Shawshank Redemption. Here’s a man who’s been in the “big house” for the vast majority of his life, and even though the prison life is by no means fun or pleasant or stress-free, it becomes his routine, it becomes his life, it becomes a part of HIM. And once he finally leaves his lifelong prison and is “freed” into the big, scary realm of the outside world, he has NO idea what the hell to do. He can’t adjust to a world beyond bars, and he wishes that– of all things– he didn’t leave in the first place.

Now, I am NOT comparing school to a brutal 1940′s prison system, nor am I planning on carving my name into a ceiling and then hanging myself with my belt after graduation. In fact, this was a pretty grim analogy. Jesus. Way to go, Bacon.

But the point I’m trying to make is THIS: I think that I might actually miss school. I’m not going to miss the homework, I’m not going to miss the deadlines, I’m not going to miss the commute or the terrible food or the ridiculously expensive tuition (the latter, in fact, will be a thorn in my ass in the form of those oh-so-wonderful student loan payments for the next several billion years). Even though some days I wish that college would manifest itself as a physical being so I can bash it in the face with a sledgehammer, what I’ll miss is the experience. All seven long-ass years of it. I’ll miss the things I’ve learned, the friends and connections I’ve made, or the skills I’ve gained. Hell, if it wasn’t for my year-long stint as a Graphic Design major, I’d have never made all those crazy posters for Freaky Deeky. If it weren’t for my time as a Journalism major, these articles by me that you’ve all been reading here on MPLS.TV would probably be a LOT more awful and pedestrian than they currently are.

So for those of you either starting school, or those of you halfway through, or reaching the light at the end of the tunnel like me, cherish the time you have here. Never mind the stupid bullshit. It’s okay to grumble and groan about what school will throw at you (as I will certainly be doing from now until next May). But in the grand scheme of things, you’ll be dealing with stupid bullshit for the rest of your life, and even if college or graduate school causes your hair to fall out or ulcers to form in your stomach before you turn 30, the end result is what matters most. And once I’m handed that diploma next year and I’m able to say that I’m a proud graduate of the University of Minnesota, you know what? It’s worth it. If I’m ready to face the ups and downs of a professional career, then I think I can make my relationship with college work out for one more year. I can do this. I think I can, I know I can. School? You’re all right in my book. Bring on the rest of the year.

…Wait. Hold up. It’s the first week and I have to read a hundred and ten total pages by Monday?

Never mind what I just said. School sucks ass.