Sometimes, I still can’t believe I graduated college. It seems like just yesterday that I was sitting in the backseat of my parents’ Honda van, surrounded by plastic drawer units and trash bags full of clothes that I hoped would convince my soon-to-be college peers that I was worth befriending. It seems like yesterday that I was sitting in my first literature class, wide-eyed and excited for the new worlds I was about to discover. And it seems like just yesterday I was lying on a Mexican blanket in the university’s botanical gardens with my friends only to suddenly realize, in horror, that a few feet away, a girl I knew was in the process of stripping down to her underwear in full view of students and families alike.
My roommate must have seen the expression of panicked confusion on my face. “Oh, don’t worry about Rachel,” she said. “It must be the acid. She’s never taken twelve hits at once before, but she’ll be fine!”
Meanwhile, Rachel had started what can only be described as “frolicking intently” through the gardens, simultaneously yelling, “The police are coming! They’re going to make me famous!”
Welcome to the liberal arts experience.
It’s just not like other colleges. If other universities are marked by football rivalries and fraternity parties, liberal arts universities are marked by face paint, Marxism, and a quiet yet pervasive understanding that shoes are a social construct. My school was more akin to some weird, sexually liberated summer camp than anything else, especially during the first year.
I know it might seem unfathomable right now, but the time in which frolicking naked in a public space will be seen as remotely normal is extremely limited. But now, since I am a wise, graduated adult who can finally understand complex concepts like “student loan repayment plans” and “drinking excessively instead of applying to another unpaid internship,” I am here now as your sage, to offer you the advice that I wish I had that day in the Honda van.
1. “What is your spirit animal?” is not a valid conversation starter past freshman year.
I know, it seems like a really great opener instead of asking what someone’s major is. And I will concede, I made a lot of friends freshman year by saying things like, “Some days, I feel like I’m a squirrel, but at heart, I’m like, definitely a fox,” and “human beings were never meant to wear shoes.” These phrases are guaranteed to win you hippie cool points with your new friends, and maybe even free weed if you’re lucky. However, it is equally guaranteed that if you ever go to a job interview with these babies in your pocket, you will not get the job. Unless the job is a head shop. And even then, you still might not get the job.
2. Stick and poke tattoos: proceed with caution.
These were all the rage for a brief period of time. It seemed like everyone had a bottle of India ink, safety pins, and a butt tattoo. Because peer pressure is real, I decided I NEEDED a stick and poke and that it would be super edgy to do an upside down cross on my middle finger because Tyler the Creator has one. I only realized this was a dumb idea after I had already started, at which point I decided to just “freehand” a tree branch instead. The tree branch didn’t work out, so I decided to turn it into an anchor, which (surprise) also did not work out, and that’s why I have a weird light blue marking on my middle finger that looks like the letter R. It took me years to come to terms with this stupidity.
3. If you’re really friends, you should be able to have fun in situations that do not involve alcohol.
This one isn’t really exclusive to a liberal arts school, but it’s important nonetheless. A little partying is absolutely a rite of passage, but at the end of the day, it’s all the in-between moments that build lasting friendships. A real friend is someone who will not only take shots with you, but also learn the bus system with you, be your partner in crime, and lay in bed giggling and listening to Ella Fitzgerald on Friday night instead of going out.
4. Similarly, there is more to romantic compatibility than drinking in the same places on the weekend and having the same taste in music.
5. Don’t sell drugs just because you “know a guy.”
6. White people: do not dreadlock your hair.
7. College classes and therapy appointments are two different things.
8. Snorting melatonin will not make you fall asleep faster.
9. Getting involved is the coolest thing you can do.
Don’t fall for the popular cultural lie that apathy is cool! You know what’s actually cool? Investing time and energy into your passions, and having something to show for it. Being interested in student government might not necessarily be glamorous freshman year, but by senior year, being in a position to increase the amount of locally grown, organic food in the school cafeteria will be. Spending all your time in your room painting might be seen as weird freshman year, but snagging a post-grad art residency after college is anything but weird. College is a unique time for fostering your interests with relatively few other responsibilities. Take advantage of that.
10. There is something very ironic about using your Macbook to post Facebook statuses about how much you “h8 #capitalism.”
But you won’t realize that until later.