Many say THIS was the best time of their lives...
For me, it would be my college years, hands down, and many of my friends, relatives, and co-workers echo that very sentiment.
And it's not because I miss drunken fraternity parties or on-campus events. For starters, I don't drink and I was never in a fraternity. Because I was a commuter student, I never actually lived on campus and thus didn't have the quintessential college experience.
Still, I loved college because the academic atmosphere suited me. I always excelled in school (thanks largely to my mom, who instilled in me a passion for learning) and felt completely in my element. Even though I got a part-time job during my junior year, I still considered school my top priority. Indeed, I was one those reviled nerds who enjoyed reading voraciously and writing papers.
One of the best aspects of college -- it's probably the one I miss the most -- was the flexibility it afforded me. When you're in the corporate world, you usually have to spend 8+ hours a day in the same office, around the same people, 5 or more days per week. During my college years, however, my schedule was much more varied. For example, there were days where I worked and went to school, others where I only went to school, and still others where I only worked.
Depending on the term, each course lasted anywhere from 2 to 4 months. Once the semester was over, I was on to a different set of classes featuring different professors and peers.
My point is that I was never bored. I was always learning something new and meeting different people. Variety was the name of the game. If I didn't want to go to class, I didn't have to. It was all up to me. I was independent and fully in control of my schedule.
At work, I have to see the same people for 40 hours each week. The work is essentially the same day in and day out. The most I can do now to get away is take short breaks to go to the bathroom or grab something from my car.
It's been nearly 9 years since I graduated and I continue to miss college a great deal -- not as much as before, but the feeling remains nonetheless. Thankfully, blogging and reading help to fill the void.
I've realized that the college undergraduate experience can never be replicated later in life. Even if you go on to get a master's degree or become a professor yourself, it just isn't the same.
Most people would agree that college is unlike any other time in one's life. Up until we reach college, we spend all our time obeying rules and following a schedule that's forced upon us. Notice that the same thing happens once we graduate from college and enter the workforce, where we're beleaguered by politics and endless red tape.
There are other reasons why I hold my time in college in such high regard. I hooked up with my now-wife while in college. I also met my now-best friend (who wound up being the best man at my wedding) during my freshman year.
I graduated in December 2007, the first month of what would ultimately become the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Indeed, thanks to the recession, I spent the next two years struggling to find work. All I kept thinking throughout that long ordeal was how I wished I were still in the secure confines of the Ivory Tower.
I do my best to relive that magical era as best as I can. I often thumb through an album that contains pictures taken during those years. I also have a category in my iPod titled "Songs from the college years." Listening to them instantly makes me feel 10 years younger.
I always advise those in college to make the most of their four years there. While there's no question that people are more financially stable after being in the workforce for a few years. Still, it doesn't change the fact that college gives us our first taste of freedom and marks our entry into adulthood. That in itself should be enough to make it unforgettable.