What I Learned from College

I didn’t grow up like most people in high school. Not to say I didn’t grow up, I just never had my rebellion. I never dared to come into myself. First and foremost college allowed me to explore that. I have some fantastic memories from college; I met the woman I want to and will spend the rest of my life with week one, I partied in questionably outfitted homes and across the Atlantic. But I will remember the people I met and spent time with and did a bunch of stupid s**t more than all the rest of it. This is a bit of what I learned.

1) You are allowed to watch movies alone.

I spent a lot of time doing this, and a lot of time doing this Freshman year when everyone left to go out. I will admit it wasn’t particularly exciting, but I will say this: I did what I needed to do.

2) You should go out with the group.

I always thought it was really stupid, and many of the stories I have heard confirm that in some way. But what I have learned is that hearing the stories isn’t the same as living them. Isn’t the same of living amongst your peers. And you don’t have to do it their way either. Go, dance, watch drunk people (even just that is often worth it) and just live it. Don’t be too afraid to live (and please take reasonable precautions so you don’t get arrested, poisoned or otherwise put in harm’s way).

3) Choose Your Friends

Some people are assholes. And some people you just don’t click with. And that’s okay. The best part about life is that you are important and wonderful and you can choose to surround yourself with people you actually want to be around. And who actually care about you.

4) Fights Are Actually Healthy and Normal

Not fistfights. Please don’t get in a fistfight if you can avoid it. I mean arguments. You are your own person. Which means you are different from everyone else, including your most best friend in the whole world. And, sorry to break the news, you’re going to disagree. And that’s okay. The important part is to understand this and work through it. Real friends won’t leave you behind.

5) Your Perspective Isn’t the End-All-Be-All

I’m not saying you aren’t right. But the fact is, life is a lot more complicated than “this is this and that is that.” Even a statue looks differently from behind and who are you to tell the guy across from you his view is wrong? I’ll never be able to explain to everyone what this means, but the point is that everyone’s experience is legitimate and real. And you should treat it as such.

6) Sometimes Really, Really Shitty Things Happen

I don’t know what to say about this one. It’s just true.

7) Mental Illness is an Illness

And most people get something at some point (most commonly anxiety of depression). And that’s okay. Don’t treat people suffering as if they’re some kind of foreign creature. It’s just an illness. (I’ll point out that no one says “those (kind of) people” about persons suffering from colds, the flu or even chicken pox).

8) Degrees Get You in the Door

And that’s about it. I’m an English major. No one ever asks me about it. They ask for stories about who I am and how I deal with life and what experience I have that might be useful. If you’re in school you should remember that when you stay up until 4 a.m. studying for an exam instead of applying to jobs or something (sleeping? not gonna judge though, sleep is fickle).

9) You’ll Know When You Actually Break

And it’s a hell of a lot farther along than you might think.

10) Be Yourself and Let Others Be Them

Respect other people. And have the confidence to listen to yourself. Because I can just about guarantee you’re more right than anyone else.

11) Don’t Go into Debt

School loans, houses and cars are a whole separate thing. Don’t get into debt for everyday things. And if you do, pay it off. I feel like everyone’s heard it a million times before, but it is really just true. Finances are the easiest way to make a relationship tense, to stress you out and make you feel totally trapped. Be realistic about your abilities and understand.

12) Live Simple

You can have cool stuff. But I lived in a closet for a year in France, shared a mini-fridge with two other roommates and had a window opening the size of my fist (not exaggerating). And one of those roommates told me that he had gotten all his stuff down to the size of a single carload and how freeing it was. I’m gonna need a kitchen table, so that’s not gonna work for me, but it’s still good advice. It’s easier to be happy when all you need is a cup of tea, a bath, flowers, a book, whatever.

Life is complicated. And it sucks a lot sometimes. Actually sometimes it’s really awful. But what I learned from college is that actually, I think I can do this. No guarantee it won’t be rough. But in the end. Yeah. I think it’ll work. If nothing else I could be an English teacher.

I don’t know why this song, it just seems to echo how I feel.


Guess What?

I went to Marseille yesterday for a sociology class trip. We are doing sociological research on the “Euroméditerranée” project. It is, well, really complicated, but the gist is that it’s a massive renovation project in Marseille. The goal, from what I can tell, is to make a business center in the city to help revitalize Marseille’s economy and its importance in the Mediterranean region.

So basically they’re making everything look nice.

Anyway, it’s a massive project that has a lot of contention around it because it’s going to gentrify a lot of the areas affected. Among other things, like costing millions of euros. It’s really a very interesting project because of how noticable and how subtle the project is.

In any case, this trip required us to be in Marseille by 9:15. So, I had to wake up at seven to get to the bus stop and meet up with the rest of our “Aixoise” classmates to travel to Marseille together and try and figure out where we were supposed to meet up with our professor as a group. That all was pretty easy. I even got this nifty card called a “tickettreize” that allows me to use the Aix bus system for two euros a day. It’s pretty tight.

We got there and made a quick stop at McDonalds for coffee. They asked me if I spoke French and I was just like…uh, I’ve been speaking to you in French this whole time?. I managed to get an espresso. Then, instead of taking the really, really straightforward metro system to the place we were meeting, we decided to save a euro fifty and walk. And by “we” I mean the French girl just started walking out the door. Which was fine, I like walking, but this is where it becomes a story.

So we go walking. We’re all just chatting and being tired and I slowly realize that I have to pee. But I don’t know where the heck that’s going to happen because it’s not like we have time to stop, buy something and use the restroom (because just doing the latter would be really, really rude). So I decided to just wait till we got to the metro we were meeting the class at because that seemed logical to me.

We ended up getting directions to the metro from a very nice African guy who…well he led us to the tram which is exactly the wrong direction from the metro. This, however, was after the time we came across a gated sidewalk place, opened it, and kept walking. Only to get stuck inside some fairly sketch compound that had a security guard on a scooter. He was like…what are you doing? And the French girl was just like “getting over that way” (completely fenced off). He was like “there’s no way you’re getting over that way.” So what does the french girl do? Slips through this little crack between the fences. And we all follow suit. No comment from scooter dude.

Anyway, no bathroom at the metro and we begin our adventure.

It was pretty cool. I didn’t know what to take notes over, but I did count how many people had rolled vs commercial cigarettes when we stopped. The percentage of smokers I didn’t really care about because it’s literally almost everyone. Rolled was much higher percentage. It’s a lot cheaper apparently.

We visited one of the poorest neighborhoods in Marseille which is part of the Euromed project I believe. It was interesting. Lots of immigrants. Coptic Christian church. And huge market. They had live sheep for sale. And warehouses full of sellers. Food, bobbles, junk, antiques, all of it. It was really cool.

It makes me really interested for the first time. What’s going to happen to these people? Should majority rule always be the rule? Maybe it’s better to listen to the people directly affected. Lots of interesting thoughts.

And good tea. Sweetened mint green tea. Good stuff.

The Bathroom Window

There are sometimes a few REALLY random things that just make life better for entirely inexplicable reasons. I personally believe that God put them there for you, but even if you don’t, you have to admit that they exist.

Lately (and strangely), this has been the bathroom window for me. It’s about a foot across each way and really high up off the ground. Really, it’s an old, chipped-white, super-standard and otherwise hilariously ordinary thing that lets our bathroom air out (I fear the winter when we will have to close that little guy).

But I’ve taken up looking out the window lately. And, I don’t know, it’s beautiful out there. And I find that no matter how crappy I’m feeling about whatever. It’s a little piece of calm. Every time.

It’s really a blessing.

Thoughts on Study Abroad

My study abroad experience has been interesting so far, to say the least. I learn things every day and I never feel like there is nothing to do. In fact, there seems at times to be too much to do! Still, I do want to say one thing about living here so far.

Study Abroad isn’t necessarily learning about another country. I mean, I sincerely hope that you open your ears and eyes to the country around you, there are a lot of things that are simply fascinating. But that’s not all of it. What I don’t think is emphasized is what Study Abroad actually does do. It teaches you how to live. I mean, like, you have to re-learn how to interact with people a bit. You have to learn what is normal and acceptable and what is not. For me, I have to learn how to take care of myself, where to get food and how to prepare it. This isn’t just an experience centered around learning about another language or another culture: that you can do at home. This is about learning how to LIVE in another culture. And I don’t know if I can really express what all that means.

But I imagine, I’ll be telling you all about it this year.

How Do I Play the Game?

So I’m at training for the camp I’m working at this summer. It’s fantastic. Two days in and I already feel at home and on my way to a new and better direction. Anyway, we played this game called Cat and Mouse as part of the initiatives part of training (initiatives are kind of like team-building exercises).

Cat and Mouse is played like this: Everyone has a dot in a circle that they stand on. There is one person in the middle. The “mice” standing on the circles cannot talk. The “cat,” who is the person standing in the middle, can. The only way the cat can become a mouse is to steal another mouse’s dot when they vacate it. That’s pretty much it.

When you play, you look for other people to switch with you. You make eye contact, nod your head, or sometimes you just run at them. Some people will run every time you come to them, even if their chance of getting another dot is hopeless. Some won’t run even when you’ve established that it’s going to happen. Sometimes someone thinks they’ve established that they’re both running and one person hasn’t gotten the memo.

But there are a few things that stand out to me in this game. In a strange way it simulates life. First of all, there is no rule that says you HAVE to move. In fact, the mice could stay safe on their own pads for forever. But that’s no fun for ANYONE.

Second, sometimes you take risks and you fail. And sometimes when you fail, you have just as much fun trying to get out of your failure as you did getting into it. Being the cat for a while was actually a little fun.

Third. The game is fun. Even with no debrief, no deeper thought, it’s a really fun and simple game. But taking it to that next level. Doing something that lasts more than just a few minutes, a few hours, a moment. That’s what the real goal is.

And it makes me think: How much of these three things do I do?