What I’ve Learned In College

You learn a lot of things in college. Some of them will (hopefully) be pertinent to your future career. Some of them will make you a better person. Some will make you feel like you’re the worst person on the planet. Some seem like they’ll never be useful, but really will be.

In honor of my time at university drawing to a close, here are some things I’ve learned over the past four years.

–Food is a valid bargaining chip and can be used in place of money with the average college student. This is also more or less true of alcohol, but food will by and large make you far more friends, at least in my case.

–There are about 12 types of people you will meet in college, but each one of them is an individual.

–How to avoid La Rouchies.

–You’ll meet a lot of people who are just big high schoolers, or even big middle schoolers. At least one of them will be a professor or TA.

–Long weekends spent avoiding studying will allow for a lot of self-introspection. You will not always be happy with what you find, but you may also learn how to make peace with who you are.

–The quickest way from one end of campus to the other, excluding buildings that aren’t on campus proper. Like the ceramics studio. (Never had class there, and I’m thankful.)

–Everything you know is wrong, if only slightly.

–One does not magically become an adult by living on one’s own.

–How to get drunk neighbors to shut up/how to stand up for yourself when your neighbors will not shut up at 2 AM during finals week.

–How to manage with communal showers.

–Relatedly, that there are such things as paper towel dispensers and they produce these magical sheets of recycled wood product that can be placed between your hand and the hair clogging the drain.

–How to have fun on a budget.

–Dorm wifi sucks.

–Off-campus wifi really isn’t any better, and you have to pay more for it.

–How not to set off the dorm fire alarms while cooking.

–How to not be that jackass who sets off fire alarms at 2 AM sending everyone else out into the snow and ice in their goddamn pajamas. (Still haven’t gotten over that.)

–I can’t pull all-nighters.

–I can, however, talk until 3 AM with friends while trying to calm down from a panic attack.

–How to not live in an isolated bubble so that the real world seems like only a dream.

–How to cut coupons like a madwoman.

I would conclude with mushy stuff about how I have awesome friends I never want to lose touch with. This is very true, and while some of us are scattering to the four corners of the earth (or at least the southwest corner of the U.S.), we already know we’ll be staying in touch, so I’m not going to write sappy comments that would make me bawl my eyes out. There will be enough of that after I get my wisdom teeth out.

One of those special moments of dawning realization

More and more often, especially as I close in on my last quarter at university (I hope, I hope, I hope…), I find myself just doing something, and then stopping in the middle and going, “Wait a minute–this is an adult thing!”

No, not that kind of adult thing. And even if it was, I wouldn’t write about it. That would just be… ew.

No, I’m talking about the kind of adult things I can talk about to even a five-year-old.

Take today, for instance. I needed to return to my parents’ house to get a few important pieces of mail. Like my new debit card. Because apparently, they expire. (Who knew?) Like I’ve done since high school, I grabbed the bus and walked and let myself in, and looked for a snack.

Somewhere in the middle of that, things went awry.

It came to my attention that there was a batch of clean dishes sitting in the dishwasher, and in the dish rack next to the sink. Being that we have limited counter space at my apartment, my mind was screaming at me that these things need to be put away NOW. (We don’t use our apartment dishwasher because it has a funky brown stain in it, and we don’t really go through that many dishes, anyway, but that’s neither here nor there. My point is that these dishes needed putting away.)

Now, when I was a kid, I would have ignored this and summarily pleaded the fifth when confronted about why I wasn’t responsible, especially when the chore takes only five minutes, tops. In defense of me fifteen or so years ago, five minutes in kid time spent on a chore is like eleven hours. But now, it really is five minutes. And it really does feel good. There’s just something about surveying a less-cluttered counter and an empty sink and thinking (complete with a bit of a twang) “I done good”.

And then, I realized that this was one of those things that mature (or at least responsible) adults do. And I kind of freaked out. Since when am I a mature, responsible adult?! Just because I’ve been able to vote and smoke and drink for a couple years doesn’t mean I’m mature and responsible. Just because I’ve somehow made it through three and two thirds years of college doesn’t make me mature and responsible. What is it, then? Is it just these little, every day things? Is it working a job? Is it budgeting time and money? Is it rolling your eyes at fart jokes? I really don’t know.

What I do know is that somehow, in the midst of everything, I’m becoming an adult. It’s a bittersweet thing, though I know I will always have a part of me that’s a child at heart. But it’s also a proud moment, both for me to realize that maybe I can live in this so-called “real world” and not fall to pieces, but also for me to look at my parents (and hopefully for them to look at themselves) and say, “You/we done good. Chickadoodle will always be that little girl we all loved from the start, but now, she’s more than that; she’s what we hoped for.”

Mom, Dad, when you read this (because I will make you; I swear I will), I really hope that you do look at that little girl and the woman she’s becoming with pride. If you ever wondered whether you got it right, I can tell you that you did, 100%. And I love you both so much.

Letting Your Kids Watch Disney Won’t Ruin Them, I Swear

Watching Disney movies in college gives you a rather different perspective on them than you had when you were little. Or, at least, the movies are a lot more understandable in light of the knowledge you gain as you go through school.

Some people are okay with this. It makes movies more enjoyable and easier to watch multiple times when you going, “Hey, I never noticed that before!” But I’ve also heard friends say, “Oh my God, these movies are horrible! I’m never letting my child watch them at a young age!”

When remarks like that are made, I’ve often said, “Hold on just a second. How much of that can you honestly say you understood when you watched that at five?” and about as often gotten back some stuttering about how it’s still in there and that’s not okay before the eventual grumble of “None of it…”

Often, it’s that people don’t want their children to learn bad behaviors. There’s also a protective instinct to shield young ones from scary or sad scenes. Honestly, I remember being upset at Mufasa’s death in The Lion King. I remember being scared out of my wits at Aladdin’s escape from the cave of wonders. I remember the Beast teaching me that anger can be a scary, ugly thing. I remember Gaston teaching me that being arrogant can get you your way, but it will make a lot of people think you’re a tier-1 jerkface.

See, the world isn’t perfect, and in those movies, no matter how dark they get, there is happiness. Often enough, the ending is happy. That’s the reward to the viewer for sticking with it. And when you think about it, things are happier now than they were when fairytales by the brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson were what children were expected to read or listen to. (We get such watered down versions of them today; if you read the original versions, there’s some REALLY dark stuff in there!)

Then, there’s also a huge feminist argument against a lot of Disney movies. I completely understand where that’s coming from. Really, I didn’t want to watch Snow White or Sleeping Beauty because I thought they were really, really boring.

Then again, with two older brothers and no sisters, I also grew up watching Star Wars and The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest and playing with Legos and Hot Wheels. I played Star Wars at recess with the boys, and I enjoyed my fair share of rough-housing, but I also loved to watch the pretty Disney princesses. It never occurred to me that society thought any one of those activities was “wrong” or “right” for little girls to want to do—I was just having fun! I invented stories with my dolls and stuffed animals, and I had fun dressing up in a tutu just as much as those activities I mentioned that are more thought of as boys’ activities.

Disney didn’t teach me how to be a girl, and that’s definitely not for lack of exposure. I freakin’ loved those movies and would watch them every chance I got. Heck, I don’t think I ever actually learned how to be a girl, which explains a lot, if you know me. What Disney taught me—what everything taught me when I was little—was how to be me, and to accept myself for who I am, and not let some Gaston mold me to his will or some Scar try to intimidate me into doing things I did not want to or should not do… you get the picture. (Side note: Disney also did not give me body-image issues. I came by those long after I stopped watching a Disney movie a day, and even now, I’ve never cared about how “fat” I am relative to an animated character. Or a live-action one, for that matter.)

I’m okay with the color pink. I like princess stories (though the princess can’t be a damsel in distress for half the book, or I just give up). And there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about the kitchen that keeps me in there probably far more often than is really healthy for me. But I also like the color blue, watching things explode, and working with power tools. Disney never said I couldn’t do both. But if they—or anyone—were to say that? I’d have a few rather rude suggestions for what they should do before continuing on my merry way.

So yeah, when I get around to having kids, they’ll totally be allowed to watch Disney movies. In fact, I might make them, even if they don’t want to.

Kidding.

Sort of…

Anyway, these hypothetical children will be allowed to watch and ask questions and form their own beliefs about what they can and can’t do, and I really hope that they, like me, don’t do things just because “that’s what girls/boys do—and the other gender doing them is wrong”, but because they want to. And I will try to keep my laughter at the less appropriate jokes down until they’re old enough to understand, then watch them possibly go through that same phase of horror/shock when they realize there’s a reason why adults find these things funny, and THEN watch them realize that it’s okay because they didn’t get it, and Disney didn’t ruin them, either.