Today, at age 30, a full 13 years after I started college, I am the recipient of a college diploma. I am the purported holder of a bachelor of science in journalism, with a minor in political science. I have graduated. I am official. Officially capable of continuing to do what I do, except that now, on my resume, instead of "degree pending," it will say "Bachelor of Science, Journalism," and potential employers will dutifully note that I did not attend Berkeley or Stanford or even Santa Clara, but that at some point, I attended a state college, and completed enough courses that the bureaucracy that is my alma mater reluctantly coughed up a faux leather-bound degree, signed by the Governator and Chuck Reed, and some other people, and it says I have one less thing to worry about, now.
My years at college were, in retrospect, some of the best of my life, and believe me when I say I never thought I would say something so cliche.
During college, I met my husband and friends I'll have for life. I learned to drive stick shift. I learned to drink a lot. I learned how to work on a newspaper. I took classes I didn't need, including biology, remedial English, and sex education. I learned I was a very small fish in a big, big pond. I landed an internship in Florida, which to this day is one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I lived on my own. I worked funky jobs. I thought life was hard, and I had no idea.
College equaled time spent in the newsroom, the Student Union, the library, the Flying Pig Pub, football games, mysterious underground tunnels we had no right to be in. College, for me, was nontraditional. Home was mere minutes away. I needed jobs to pay for stuff. Completion was staggered and, frankly, miraculous.
I may not be the type you'd expect to attend college. My mom has admitted she never expected me to finish. I took math several times, and flunked several times. This, despite the fact that I was a fourth-grade champion of the multiplication table. I could tell you what the answer was to a pile of flash cards with multiplication problems on them faster than anyone in my class. I now realize I wasn't a multiplication champion, I was a memorization champion. Same reason I won the Copy Editing contest during an inter-collegiate competition several years ago. I'd memorized the Style Book.
College equaled coffee and walking to class in the rain and the smell of old chairs in an amphitheater classroom and professors with glasses sliding down their noses and books that cost too much and breakfast burritos and late nights and phone books hurled against the wall and corrupt student government that meant more to me than it should have. College was sexual frustration and relationship drama and weight loss and weight gain and crying and my dog died and my aunt's partner died too and I was in a car accident and I cut ties with my best friend and I did things I never expected to do. And how can college be such a great memory if part of that memory is skipping class because I was lying prostrate in bed, with, in retrospect, a dangerous bout of depression that actually made dying seem appealing? Well. It just was. After all, I got out of the bed, and I went to the newspaper, because I wouldn't disappoint those people, and they are the ones who got me through that particular time of my life.
So, college, it was real. I'm thankful for the experience and the wonderful people I met there and who I'm privileged to still call friends. But college, I am so glad to be done with you.