Recently I had the pleasure of walking through the gorgeous campus of the University of Washington here in Seattle. (Go Huskies!) It gave me butterflies.
Not only did the stately brick buildings make me feel like I’d stepped into Hogwarts, but also I got that old familiar feeling. Call it academic fever if you like. The sense that there was information all around me, and I was on the verge of being let in on the secret. The heady sensation that I was a part of something much bigger than myself. I was flooded with feelings of possibility, potential, and opportunities for the future. People were learning in this special place.
I thrive in academia. I always graduated top of my class. It’s not that I’m smarter than the other students (although I’m pretty darned smart), it’s more that school is an environment that appeals to my sensibilities. The rules are clearly defined. You are told exactly what you have to do in order to be successful. If you choose not to do those things you have no one to blame but yourself. You are also encouraged to ask questions and seek explanations. Help is there when you need it, and friendships are readily available and extremely intense. Bullying, for the most part, is a thing of the past. Who has the time? Everyone should go to college at least once in their lives.
Would that the real world were the same way. Here, the rules frequently change and are often illogical. Success is usually more a function of personality, connections, and being in the right place at the right time. People in positions of authority often become irritated when you ask questions, and explanations are regularly withheld. Help is not something you can count on, and it’s harder to make friends because people are busy, and/or have already established lives, families and routines.
As I walked through the UW campus, I felt like I was coming home, even though it’s not my alma mater. And I also felt kind of sad, because I know that aside from the odd community education pottery class, my school days are over. Three worthless degrees and their subsequent crushing student loan debts are more than enough for me.
I wanted to grab every single student I saw and shake them and say, “Savor this. Take advantage of every opportunity. Take nothing for granted. You’re never going to have this again. You may feel stressed out now, but you’ll miss it later, and for the rest of your life.”