This weekend I will be attending my husband’s 20 year high school reunion. Though it is not my reunion, it may as well be because we went to the same school and he was a merely a year older. So, it will be quite similar to attending my own.
Emotionally preparing for such an event has me in this strange place of regret and wonder. I do not think it is all that odd to be contemplative when these milestones reach us. We can be flooded with memories of what we may fool ourselves into thinking were ‘the good ole days’. Or perhaps the past remind us of which we’d rather forget.
My high school life was fairly normal, I think. I had some really fun times which will remain with me until dementia sets in. I had moments which still make me cringe to this day. But there is one thing I will forever regret. And I am reminded of this regret when I see all the graduates celebrating their new found freedoms and transition into college life.
I did not go to college after high school. And I still do not have a college degree. This mistake sticks in my gut when I hear stories of dorm life or see the successes of my old classmates.
At 18, I moved near UWM with friends who were attending that school. I had a first row seat to the late nights and campus events. I spent time visiting friends in the dorms and went to many keg parties. But I feel as though I was merely witness to the memories of others instead of creating my own. And I certainly do not have anything to show for it.
For me, going to college wasn’t this assumed evolution. My parents lived paycheck to paycheck and there was no college fund waiting for me. During my high school years, I accomplished the very minimum if I wasn’t terribly interested in the subject matter. I didn’t go through school with college as my focus – in fact, I didn’t give it much consideration at all. So when it came time to apply and go through all the leg work for admissions and financial aid – I blew it off. I had been told that my parents made too much to receive money but they didn’t have enough to send me. It was too much work and I had other things on my mind. I was stupid.
Because of my laziness and unpreparedness, I didn’t get to experience a part of life which many do – a part of life I think I would have loved. I do not have that pride of being a college graduate. I do not have the academic experience and knowledge I wish I had. And while I have had more than enough ‘life’ education, it doesnt seem to compensate.
I do have a couple years of college credits as I attended Parkside and Gateway off and on in my twenties. But once kids came along and tuition costs sky rocketed, it never progressed into anything tangible. It is hard to feel as though all that money and time wasn’t wasted.
I am writing about this today because I want to urge younger kids to be more aware that their choices today will make a tremendous impact on their tomorrows. It may not be felt until a decade later, but it will be felt. Not everyone is cut out for college. And you do not have to attend a University to have a fulfilling or successful life. But for me, not going to college after high school is something I greatly regret. I almost grieve that part of life I never allowed myself to experience.
At 18, it is difficult to envision how you will think and feel years later. It is difficult to not simply live moment to moment. And whats funny is, I wish I could do that now. But when you are young, you have the time to mold your life in a way which will effect you foever. Make sure you really think things through. NOW is when you have the energy and freedom to go for whatever it is you want for your future. The longer you wait, the harder it is. I hope you take my advice more than I took the advice of others all those years ago.
If you think college is something that will benefit your life, and it probably is, then do what you can to get there. I would far rather regret something I did do rather than something I didn’t. And I doubt there are many people out there who regret an education.