Wednesday, September 14, 2011

School-Less September

It’s my first September without school. I can’t even remember a time, aside from summers, when I wasn’t preparing for school. For classes, for tests, for papers.

And you know what? I don’t miss it one bit. Sure, sometimes I get nostalgic about going to class and being in the college environment but it quickly passes as I realize how much freedom I have now. And how my weekends and nights are filled with things I want to do, not assignments and long classes to sit through.

I didn’t have the “normal” college experience, but I can’t say I regret it. I entered college at 16, thanks to a new charter school in my area that allowed me to earn high school credit for college courses. When I started at USF, I was 18 and had two years of college behind me. I was placed in a freshman dorm and full of excitement of what the college experience would bring me. At 18, I was ready to have a normal college experience.

Well, I hated living on campus. More specifically, I hated living in a dorm room. (And the fact that my roommate and I were polar opposites and didn’t get along at all didn’t help.) I’ve come to realize I need my space and a place to be alone and you don’t get that in a dorm. Luckily, my roommate was gone more than she was around but it was a big adjustment for me and I didn’t take to it well. It was especially hard to be locked out of my room so she could have sex with her boyfriend. I spent countless hours in the bookstore and common area to do homework and study for tests thanks to her. (For me, I get distracted way too easily in public places to ever be focused and productive.)

I moved back home after the year on campus. (My roommate moved into another room in the Spring, leaving me with my own space for 4 months. Those may have been the best 4 months of my life.) I struggled to get involved and find friends, roommate issues nonwithstanding. At 18, I was even more socially awkward and painfully shy than I am now so it was just a bad situation for me to be in. I was burrowing even farther into my shell and knew moving back home was what I needed to do for me at that time.

I became a commuter student for the next year and completed two student teaching internships. A few weeks after moving back, I started working at a preschool, a job I loathed. In the summer of 2008, I was working for a printing shop that was dying and preparing for my last semester of college.

Well, the last semester of college ended up being the start of a new school path for me. The internship was terrible and I left before it was over, broken and unsure of what to do with my life. After a few weeks of searching my heart, I chose a new major: Journalism. Writing had been a passion of mine for a very long time, but majoring in it had never even crossed my mind.

The next two and a half years were spent in journalism classes, a second daycare job that was much smoother than my previous, and living at home. It was hard. My entire life revolved around my job and school. There was barely enough time to breathe Mondays - Thursdays. There were no coffee dates before class, strolling around campus, or waking up 15 minutes before my class started. Since my weekdays were filled with work and classes, my weekends were my catch-up days for homework and studying.

For the first time, I have absolute freedom to do what I want. I have a full-time job that is pushing me just my like classes in college did, except I’m getting paid to be pushed. I have my nights and weekends for myself. I don’t have the pressing worries of upcoming papers or presentations or huge projects. I can simply be. I feel more in the moment, more alive. I am happier. More fulfilled. Less stagnant.

My college years were different than most, that’s for sure. But I tried the normal route and that’s not the path I was meant to take. I can’t regret it, but I don’t look back upon those years with fondness. I don’t long for the “carefree” days of college. (If anything, I feel more carefree now than when I was a student.) That was then, this is now. I needed that time for me, to get a degree and gain knowledge in the field of journalism and media. But that chapter of my life is over. And while I can’t say for certain I will never be a student again, I can say that I’m glad those days are behind me.

How did you feel your first “September” out of college?

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