Sometimes, it seems like people have the wrong idea about getting a college degree.
You get way more than a BMA, BFA or even a job after graduation. You aren’t just forced to learn algebra, underwater basket weaving and foreign language.
You learn about life, love and all that other deep, metaphysical stuff you have to experience in order to grow and develop as a person. And maybe for the first time in your life, you make choices as an adult.
Because of that freedom of choice, you take a few knocks. You’ll make a mistake or do something you come to regret, but that’s part of the process.
Last weekend, I made a mistake. I learned a lesson the hard way.
It was Saturday night. I had just gotten off work at my other job at a local supermarket. All I wanted to do was sit in my recliner and watch 13 episodes of Lost on Netflix. My friends had other plans for me.
“It’s Saturday night,” they whined collectively. “You can sit around and watch television tomorrow. Tonight, we celebrate, because you only live once, right?” They had me at YOLO.
Lots of people will tell you that you don’t have to drink alcohol in order to have a good time and enjoy yourself around your friends. And that’s a true statement.
But at this age, there’s going to be some drinking. Call it experimentation—call it reckless partying—call it what you will, college kids drink.
That Saturday night, I chose to drink with my friends, and later I made the decision to sit on my roof. It’s not very high off the ground—9 or ten feet, at the most—but when someone told me not to jump off of it without shoes on because it would probably hurt, I did it anyway.
I’m sure the alcohol in my system had nothing to do with that.
But anyway, it did hurt. I spent four hours in the ER to learn I didn’t break any bones (I was a little disappointed). I’m still limping around and regretting that choice, a week and one prescription for strong painkillers later.
Life is about choices. And for every choice you make, there is a consequence. Or there are several consequences. Sometimes the consequences of your actions directly affect you, and sometimes they affect the people around you.
For example: when I chose to jump from a roof that I thought was low to the ground, the consequence—bruising my Achilles tendon—affected me (painfully).
But it also affected my parents, who I had to call from the emergency room to tell them I thought I had broken my foot doing something incredibly stupid. My mom is still mad at me.
Things could have turned out worse for me. Ten feet may not seem all that far to fall, but it’s far enough to do lasting damage. That fact wasn’t lost on my loving parents.
So here are two free pieces of advice, lessons that I’ve learned about making choices while getting through college:
While you’re away from home, it’s easy to make bad choices and regret them later. The challenge is to know that you’ve made a mistake, and to recognize that your mistake might hurt more than just you.
And if you’re going to drink, by all means... stay off the roof.