I just got back from a visit with my youth.
Every year or two, Doug and I like to get down to Santa Barbara to replace our fraying UCSB sweatshirts. As we make the five-hour drive, the memories creep back. When I get a whiff of that tar in the air, I know campus is close. Oh that smell of salty ocean air mixed with tar, I love it so. Nothing brings back the memories like that oily scent of tar.
The memories. My first drive down there with Kim, our boxes packed to the sunroof of my Volkswagen, the two of us belting along with Hall and Oates. Econ 101, Professor Watson, bad grades. My view of the sunrise over the ocean from my top bunk in San Miguel Dorm. (Google it, it really did face east AND the ocean.) Procrastination, guilt, and did I mention bad grades?
What ever happened to my ex-boyfriend, my ex-roommate, my abandoned bike? Why didn’t I take more walks on the beach, try golf class, or study harder? And the biggest question of all, why did I spend four years at one of the loveliest spots on earth yearning for it to be over so I could get on to living my “real” life?
Really, I did. I couldn’t wait to get out, school felt like such a waste of time to me. I loved working at my part-time jobs: as a secretary at a law office, as a staff accountant at an accounting firm, and in HR for the 1984 Summer Olympics. I hated the map room gig and my short stint at the title company, but even those felt real, like I was actually doing something, not just studying to do something someday.
So why, when I walk around campus, am I jealous of the students? Why do I wish I could be them? Get a chance to do it all over again and savor it? A chance to do it without the guilt, the guilt of not studying enough. A chance to let myself have fun without agonizing that I should have been studying instead.
Because grown-up Sydney has some perspective to share with college-student Sydney: It doesn’t matter that you will graduate with a 2.97 GPA. You will go on to have a successful career in finance, a happy marriage to your college sweetheart, and get this, to retire by the time you turn 44. So go ahead, just enjoy it!
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