Not much is going on today so I think I will write about something I’ve been thinking about. College.
When I went to college (the first time) I basically only went because I wanted to get away from my parents and away from my tiny home town. I didn’t know what I wanted to be or do. I was dating someone pretty seriously but didn’t want to marry him and yet I thought I would meet the man I would eventually marry at college (didn’t happen).
When I was looking at colleges, I started looking at schools that were really far away. My favorite schools were in California, Pennsylvania, and…huh…I can’t remember where the third one was. My criteria for choosing a school went in order from, 1.) Far away, 2.) Christian values/emphasis, 3.) Fun. See what I did there? Academia? Snort. I was not a good student. I was smack dab in the middle of my class and really only did enough to get by. I did well in classes I enjoyed but skated by in classes I did not like or understand. I got the minimum needed to enter college on my ACTs. I think it was a 15, 16 or 17. Who remembers? How can something so important become so trivial? I mean nobody asks me what I got on my ACTs. In fact, I don’t think anyone has asked me that since my senior year of high school.
Anyway, I knew what I wanted in a college and I knew what I didn’t want in a college. What I didn’t want was a giant University, I didn’t want a “party school”, and I didn’t want to go where my parents went to college. That is until I saw the merry traveling band of singers, dancers, comedians, and musicians from said college that made a stop near our humble home town the summer before my senior year of high school. Maybe it was the cute boys in the group. Maybe it was seeing this school in a whole new light. Maybe it was the youth and vigor the music inspired instead of the doddering old fogey-ness my parents own stories and memories provided (granted this was all in my head and is my OWN opinion). Most likely, it was the cute boys. Whatever it was, I was newly inspired to check out this smallish, Christian, non-party college 8-hours away from my parents and home town. It was closer than I really wanted, but still a good 500 miles away which turned out to be the perfect distance. It was close enough to come home for a long weekend but far enough away to ensure appropriate freedom and independence.
I fell in love with the touring troupe, visited the school and fell in love with it, applied, was accepted, and attended the great Sioux Falls College in Sioux Falls, SD. (Now known the world over as the University of Sioux Falls.) Maybe if I had had an inkling of what I wanted to be when I grew up or an idea of what I liked to do and was good at I would have done better at college. Maybe if I hadn’t been way more interested in the social aspects of dorm life than the academic pursuits college offered, I would have done better at college. Maybe if my depression had been diagnosed and if I’d been on some kind of treatment plan, I would have done better at college.
As it was, college was an OK time for me. I remember being very aware that it was a special time like no other time would ever be in my life again. I remember the close times with friends and the silly things we did. I remember the good stuff. I remember the giant snowball fight on the quad and playing hide and seek in the theater arts building. I remember sneaking up to the roof of our dorm and laying on our backs watching the stars in the spring night air. I remember my friend Jennifer introducing me to Monty Python and me not getting it at first but then laughing over bits and parts over the next several days and wanting to watch it again. I remember one of my co-stars in the play I was in mooning me from across the stage just before we were to go on and the difficulty I had staying in character. I remember the many, many nights spent laughing and drinking coffee at the Fryin’ Pan waiting for the early morning copy of the paper with the theater reviews to hit the stands. I remember playing all kinds of pranks on people, including the not so smart “Have you checked the children” prank call on a girl I didn’t really like. I remember riding in Carmen’s pink Suzuki Samurai on the sidewalks of Augustana. I remember my guy friend Doug Blatchford waiting for me after class one day to talk to me and then him not really saying anything at all and I wonder to this day if he liked me and was going to ask me out but chickened out. I remember going to the Madrigal Dinner and accidentally spitting water all over the theater director and his wife in a vain attempt to keep from laughing at something funny. And I remember the first time my friend Jen drove in winter conditions the Thanksgiving weekend we both were stuck at school. Thankfully, we did not hit anyone nor were we hit when we slid through that stop sign. (Notice how many memories are academic?) (Also, we are friends to this day though we keep in contact far less than I would like,)
But college was also very painful and very difficult for me. There were women I wanted to be friends with who used and rejected me. There were men I wanted to date that also rejected and teased me. I was made the butt of some pranks myself. I became overwhelmed and my grades slipped and fell. The more I struggled, the more I strived, and the more I became overwhelmed. Had I known to recognize the signs of depression, I would have known how to handle these times and I like to think I would have handled them better than I did. I felt out of place and left out so many times. I felt as though I were on the outside looking in to so many things. I had been looking forward to college making up for my lack of a social life and popularity in high school, but that did not happen. Instead, I became needy and clingy and ultimately depressed and weird. I ended up flunking out of school and feeling like a complete and utter failure. I remember feeling so completely out of touch that I just wanted to end it all and had planned to take a bunch of pills one night. I don’t remember how someone found out, but it was reported to our resident directors and they met with me and loved on me and helped me get to counseling for the first time in my life. It was a breath of fresh air. One of the bad things about flunking out of college was losing the free counseling I was getting
I just can’t help but think that if I had had the knowledge of depression, counseling, and treatment then that I have now, college might have been a much better time for me. Then again, it was the mid-80s and I don’t think anyone had the knowledge of depression, counseling, and treatment then that we do now. All of this came to mind today because I wore jeans and a large comfy sweatshirt to work today. I stopped off at my local Caribou for a latte and the barista was making 27 drinks for the lady in front of me (not really but she did have 2 drink carriers for just her). I sat in an oversized chair and put my feet up on the table in front of me and all of a sudden was carted back 20 years to when I was in college and would go to the union, order a bagel with cream cheese and a large coffee with cream. I would have to wait with the other students in much the same way I was waiting now. It felt so much the same I could hardly believe I was 20 years older. I don’t feel older. I feel exactly the same…but luckier because I see how far I’ve come.