The “Best” Years: Why College Really Isn’t the Best Time of Your Life

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Issue_3_10_20_15-015By Michaela Shifley –

I can’t count how many times I’ve been regaled with reminiscent stories about how ‘college was the best time of my life,’ and ‘enjoy these four years because they will be best years of your life.’ To be honest, I’ve never understood this. What about the other 60 to 80 years of our lives? Is it supposed to be just a downhill slide from college into old age, drudgery, and despair?

The average life expectancy of the everyday American person – barring tragedy or other exacerbating factors (like smoking) – is approximately 78 years and 8 months old (USA Today).

That means the typical college student has at least 60 years with which to find something significant to do with his or her life. In the time frame between a person graduating from college and reaching about 79 years old, a few things will most likely happen. People will have a 51% chance of getting married; be 68% likely to have at least a couple of kids; and have a 61% likelihood of owning their own home (United States Demographics Statistics; Washington Post). All of these are major life accomplishments, and yet, none of those things are supposed to count as the best things to happen in our lives. It’s no wonder that many college students are scared spitless when it’s time to leave the university and enter into the ‘real world.’ After all, if we’ve already lived the best years of our lives, then , what’s the point of those next 60 years?

I find it sad that American college students have been indoctrinated with the idea that life after college is going to be somehow “less” than what we’ve experienced in a measly four years on campus. There is so much more opportunity out there in the world that is just waiting for a twenty- something to walk by and grab it with both hands, whether it be an exciting job, marrying, starting a family, or just going on a daring adventure.

People cite the fact that college students are “free,” or have more freedom from responsibility than the typical adult, as one of the main reasons why being in college is the best part of life. Sure, most people who are not in
college have to worry about bills, kids, and going to bed at a responsible time. However, I would challenge those people to take a really hard look into the life of a college student, which usually involves not only finding some way to pay tuition and other bills, but also juggling homework, sports, clubs, internships, and numerous other activities. From that perspective, being in the ‘real world’ seems like a breeze to me.

Saying that the college years are the best times in life completely negates the next 60 years or longer of experiences that we are going to acquire. That is why I do not view my college years as necessarily my best ones. Sure, they’re nice, but I prefer to look at them as just one more step on the road of life. I try to immerse myself into each moment, and appreciate it for the gift that it is. It doesn’t matter whether I am a twenty yearold college student, a forty-five year-old mother of two, or a seventy year-old grandmother. Each moment in life should be savored for the very fact that we are living and experiencing it, rather than degrading the quality of our lives based on some subjective conception of happiness.

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