Memories of a bittersweet college experience

College was a shitshow of emotions.

Educationally, it was me switching from civil engineering to creative writing two years in. Romantically, it was me having a steady girlfriend for two years then exploring the world of infinite women at house parties and frat parties. Psychologically, it was me being anxious about school on the weekdays and letting loose on the weekends.

I struggled through everything. But there were always silver linings that picked me back up. What I liked most about college is that it helped me discover what I enjoyed doing in life by first helping me understand what I didn’t like doing. This is the greatest learning it gave me. The formal education part was below average.

My formal education can be summarized by getting unconstructive criticism from irritable women and sapling men (the nice people never spoke up), learning about the ingredients of a good story but never actually learning how to write one, and getting in little feuds with teachers about my lack of participation.

If I had the choice to go to college again, I would not. Instead I would use all of that money to travel.

Without college, I’m sure I would have arrived at the same conclusion in a shorter time: that I love to write. I would then teach myself how to write. And, because I wouldn’t be in a classroom all day, I would have things to write about.

Hmmm…

Below I’ll tell you what I remember most vividly from each year of college. You’ll see that nothing about my formal education is positive with the exception of a few classes. Everything positive is related to the people I met and the new things I discovered.

Note: I didn’t pay for college tuition. My parents did. I often wonder what would have happened if I paid. I think I would have either been 1) more incentivized to learn or 2) more inclined to drop out. That said, my parents gave me a memorable experience that I can attribute to the success I have today.

Freshmen year

I started my freshmen year at a branch campus of the University of Pittsburgh in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. With only 1,500 students or so, it felt like High School, part 2. I didn’t like it enough to stay there on the weekends. I usually made the hour drive home to Pittsburgh to see my girlfriend.

There were some memorable times though…

  • Being with girls who were too loud one night, getting caught drinking a $10 case of beer by the RA, and getting my first breathalyzer
  • Needing to go to an “alcohol is bad” class and watching the most vivid scenes in Requiem for a Dream — including the “secret party” scene
  • Lighting a piece of toast on fire in the cafeteria’s toaster, setting off the fire alarm, and causally walking away as the fire squad showed up
  • Reading random books in the library when I should have been studying
  • Discovering the band El Ten Eleven
  • Doing physics problems in my local library in the spring as the sun poked through the library’s skylights
  • Writing about life in my journal with the puffy elephant on it
  • Playing paintball in the woods outside of campus

Sophomore Year

Sophomore year was a little more exciting than Freshmen year, but not by much. It was cool to be living by the college near by girlfriend at the time. I was going through an anxious and depressive period in my life because I didn’t like the track I was on, nor was I good at it (civil engineering).

  • Being on the beautiful Pitt campus while taking calculus 2 and physics 2 in the summer before the fall semester started
  • Hanging out at Schenley Park
  • Doing work in the library in the summer when it was deserted compared to fall semester
  • Meeting my new roommate
  • Discovering the Knives Don’t Have Your Back album by Emily Haines from my roommate
  • Discovering the bands Deerhoof and Deerhunter
  • Taking a Latin American fiction class with Horacio Castellanos Moya, a good friend of Robert Bolano who wrote the novel 2666
  • Seeing a psychologist for the first time in my life
  • Thinking I was losing my mind and that the world was hellish while acclimating to the anti-anxiety pill I was prescribed
  • Having my girlfriend be there for me when I was at my worst in the gondola in the park
  • Watching the entire Six Feet Under series with my girlfriend
  • Being excited about switching from civil engineering to creative writing and discovering a ton of cool literary works
  • Writing my first short story about a college student who meets a socially acceptable alien and takes it to its first party
  • Discovering the TV show Californication and binging on the first two seasons in my dorm room
  • Getting my short stories shit on by my classmates
  • Trying not to shit on theirs

Junior Year

This was my first year of college without a steady girlfriend so I naturally went to more parties. I had also met some new friends who were frat brothers. They were in the frat houses known for throwing good parties. Throughout the school year I held a 15-hours-per week student job that introduced me to some awesome people who I’m still friends with today.

  • Going to a Penn State frat party that Wiz Khalifa was playing at and meeting a cool girl
  • Getting pokey stix from Gumby’s at Penn State
  • Discovering the author Raymond Carver and his story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love
  • Reading 2666 by Roberto Bolano
  • Doing admin work as a student helper, watching episodes of Californication when I wasn’t busy, and working alongside a pretty girl
  • Getting a new hands-on student work job at the university’s property management office
  • Meeting new friends who were also student workers, as well as some university employees who taught me about blue collar union life
  • Raiding the student dorms for goodies after students left for the summer
  • Going to Virginia State and having a great weekend
  • Watching Jersey Shore while drinking beer on Thursday nights
  • Going to frat parties on the hill
  • Eating entire pizzas after drinking
  • Having my first girlfriend who was older and taught me new things after breaking up with my first-ever girlfriend
  • Having a short-lived relationship with a different girl who was crazy but also very cool

Senior Year

Senior year was my favorite year. I had more good friends than I ever had in my life, was wiser and less anxious, and always had something to do. But the “growing pain” stress I had was replaced with an unclear idea of what I actually wanted to do.

  • Being introduced to Descartes and philosophy and loving the subject matter
  • Getting a house with my friends right on campus and setting up a cool basement party area with a bar, pool table, drum set, and stereo system
  • Coming home from class on Fridays and banging on the drums with a beer before pregaming to go out
  • Throwing cool parties at our house, including having the entire girl’s soccer team over and the ratio being very, very off (I mean on?)
  • Having amazing free spirit neighbors who took me to a Hare Krsna farm and taught me how to hula hoop
  • Seeing the pick a bale of cotton video in music history class
  • Writing with my typewriter
  • Doing artsy stuff in art class in the morning while listening to Kesha
  • Having an internship writing biographies of judges and elected official at the university law library
  • Thinking I was going to do something big and write something famous

In a paragraph, what was your college experience? Let me know in the comments.

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