I came to Texas Tech in the fall of 2006.
Four years, 89 papers, 96 tests, hundreds of quizzes, dozens of professors, thousands of study hours, thousands of reading pages, two sleepless nights, three laptop batteries, dozens of parties, thousands of classmates, a few lovers, a couple dozen close friends and tens of thousands of dollars later, I will have a diploma.
In that period of time, I switched majors once, took on a second degree, dropped the first and took on another second, tackled three minors, served as an officer in two student organizations, participated several others, worked out frequently and averaged 14 hours a semester.
There is much I’ll miss about Texas Tech.
I’ll miss the enthralling camaraderie of a football game, the rush of a first day of class, the City of Lubbock, calm summer night walks on campus, the end of a semester with the anticipation of the next, random outings with good friends, singing the Fight Song, running into acquaintances between classes and many other little things.
There is also much I won’t miss.
I won’t miss the stress that came with every assignment, the process of registering for classes, the slightly subtler but annoyingly pervasive high school drama, the flooding streets, the dust storms and that wonderful ‘Lubbock smell.’
All in all, I’d say I got a pretty well rounded college experience from my time at Texas Tech. I did just about everything that one is supposed to do (and not supposed to do) during his or her time at a university.
You’d think after all this, I would come out with some great wisdom to pass on to you freshman who are hitting your second (or even first) round of finals this week. I might even have some great pointers for you juniors who aren’t quite done but can just about see the end off in the distance.
The truth is, I have nothing revolutionary to say. All I have are these few observations that you may or may not have already made. For those of you who haven’t heard what I’m about to say, I hope it resonates with you. And for those of you who have, please feel free to confirm or deny any of it.
College sucks. That’s one thing nobody ever told me before I got here. No one ever warns you about the crushing, unending stress. They neglect to mention the downright crappy people you get to deal with, the sting of a bad grade or the existential puzzle of carving out a unique identity amongst tens of thousands of peers.
On the other hand, college downright rocks. With great stress comes great relief. For every crappy person that comes your way, you meet three cool others and a life-long friend. Bad grades stop stinging sooner than you’d think. And that identity crisis? News flash: no one else at college really knows who the heck they are yet either.
I’m not saying these observations generalize to all of you, all colleges or all the years you’re here. But that’s another thing I’ve realized; there is no “typical” college experience. You write your own story while you’re here. You have some fantastic times and some crappy times, but they’re all part of your unique journey.
Some of you will look back on your time at Tech with nostalgia, others of you with absolute hate and regret. Either way, you will remember these days more vividly than possibly any period of time in your life.
I’ve kept a detailed daily journal most of the time I’ve been here. I suggest you do the same (if you aren’t already). While your memories may seem unshakably vivid now, they fade all too quickly. Don’t let the richness of your story diminish into the gray ambiguity of the past.
At the same time, recognize that there is a life for you beyond college. Your story does not end when you don your regalia and walk up to shake the Chancellor’s hand at graduation. The end of college is the beginning of the rest of your life.
Most of this is starting to sound a bit corny, I know. It’s important to keep things in perspective, though. Part of the stress that many of us feel here stems from seeing only the here and now.
That final you’ve got coming up? You won’t remember a darn thing about it a year from now, much less ten or 20 years from now. The same goes for the argument you just had with your boyfriend or the C you just made on that history paper. As important as these things may seem to you right now, you will not remember them in the long run.
You will, however, remember going to IHOP at 4:00 AM on a Tuesday night with your closest friends “just because.” You will remember watching that one crazy professor who sat on the table and threw chalk at the wall to make a point. You will remember rushing the field after a breathtaking victory.
College is what you make it. At the same time, you are and forever will be what college makes you. Take the paper and the ink that comes your way and write a chapter in your life’s story you’ll be proud to tell for decades to come.
Thanks for everything, Texas Tech! From you I take away with me something greater than the sum total of all the parts I’ve touched on here. Though I may leave Texas Tech, it will never really leave me. The scarlet and the black will forever highlight the strokes of my pen.
I leave you all with my best wishes and sincere thanks for an unforgettable chapter. Strive on, Red Raiders!
This article ran as on Op-Ed in The Daily Toreador on May 5, 2010