Monday, August 29, 2016

~ What Your Cool Ass Aunt Wants You To Know About College

College, for most people, is the first time you get to spend any real time with people who aren't exactly like you.  I know you're a unique snowflake, and all.  It's the first time you're not gonna be surrounded predominately by other peers who grew up in your neighborhood.  Who's parents have jobs like yours do, who shop at the same Old Navy you do, that have, like you, spent most of their days in their zip code. 

In the coming weeks you'll cross paths with people who don't look like you, don't hold the same religious beliefs (or non) that you're familiar with, or eat the same food you have been weaned on.  Go, say hello.  Offer them a piece of gum, or whatever adults in training are doin' these days, which I, as an old ass wouldn't presume to know.  Saving both of us embarrassment.  You're welcome Meet them.  Listen to them.  Knowing people who are the you of the other side of town is fine, don't get me wrong.  But knowing, and coming to have a greater understanding of the people who are you from the other side of the world, or other side of the political spectrum, or social economic setting?  That's where you learn your world view. 

Views are limited by experience.
Your world view, how you interpret your place in the world, how you formulate your political feelings, how you recognize injustices (and are able to in turn do something about them), how you do the math to understand the sum of the how the world works, etc., is about to be altered.  Prepare yourself.  Not everyone has the ability, or desire to notice or embrace such challenges. 

It's like your world view of transportation.  When you were three your field of reference was a big wheel, when you knew more and were older it was a big kid bike, now it's a car.  You knew cars existed when you were 3, but none of the considerations you automatically cycle through now (when you put the keys in the ignition) were factors in your thinking and perception of getting from point a-to-b, at the time.  That's how life works too.  (And why it's important to always be willing to accept all varieties of info as they pop up.  [You have a good head on your shoulders, you'll be able to come to your own conclusions about things, the important part is the exposure part, the open to discovery part.]  Can you imagine bein' all, 'nope, I like my big wheel, I don't wanna know about the next layer of info 'n opportunities?  Jetsonmobiles?  Eh, no thanks.  Fact:  That sentiment doesn't sound any less ridiculous when applied to life.)  You know all someone can know about being a teen and high school, you view the world, and it's workin's through that prism.  But that's only an accurate view from where your standing in life, from your narrow vantage point you've gathered to date.  Today you begin the process of taking your world to the next level.  (ProTip:  You'll learn some people never enlarge their view beyond that point.  Sometimes due to lack of opportunities, sometimes out of comfort and laziness.)  You fill in the view (pick up the peripheral details, notice the nuance) by expanding your wealth of knowledge (not preconceived notions, but actual experience and interactions).

You, Jon Snow, know nothing.

Yes, you've managed to assist your parents in keeping you alive.  But, let's be 100%.  It's only been a relative short amount of time and under pretty specific conditions.  You've demonstrated that you can to some degree manage to not kill yourself with your poor decisions.  It's why the world forces you to prove your abilities with a temporary permit before you have free reign.  This is your educational/career-y/life-y temp permit.  The step you have to take before being received as a 'real adult'.

Everyone has led you to believe that college is about learning book things.  (Fact:  If I don't underscore that of course it is, your mother will certainly punch me in the throat the next time we see each other.)  But never discount the value of the ancillary things you learn during these years.  In class you're learning the building blocks of your future career.  Outside, however, you'll learn the building blocks of a fully formed you find the opportunity to decide, and program yourself with the habits to make yourself the type of person you're going to be when you envision your ideal grown ass self. 

Here are some other helpful as fuck hints:

Step out of your comfort zone when choosing friends.  (check) 

Sex.  Sex is to college as peanut butter is to jelly.  Lots of opportunities are going to present themselves.  In large part, by 'opportunities', I mean alcohol.  You'll be in close confines with people who are new and exciting, feelings and/or chemistry is gonna bud and the next thing you know (surprise) you are pants free.  I know your folks have mentioned it, but sometimes, just sometimes it takes a different voice to say it before you listen (at least that's how I am);  BE SAFE.  No excuses.  If you can manage to plan to not be out of Mt. Dew, or gas in your car, or without that thing you consider a big fucking deal you are mature enough to not let sex have a chance to kill you.  The fact that you didn't go to class topless lets you know you're capable of adhering to common sense rules of life. 

The other thing about sex you need to always carry with you?  When not to do it.  Pop Quiz:  Would ya engage in gettin' it on with someone who was stinky?  I mean, stanky, not ya just finished workin' out and you're sweaty as hell, like B fucking O.  Nope, of course ya wouldn't.  Congratulations!  You have the ability to decipher when it is and isn't ok, or in your best interest to have sex.  Use this superpower to decide under what conditions you participatin' in sex is appropriate.  You know not to rape people.  But don't take your eye off how quickly you can find yourself in positions (which all of the sudden seems like a bad choice of words, but...) where under the light of day, and/or sobriety, or when phased by an attorney could be up for debate.  Keep yourself out of such situations.  This isn't achieved by magic, you're going to have to use your ability to decipher when it is and isn't ok.  And you're going to have to be do so when Jaegermister is telling you that, you. can.  do.  a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g. 

The rest about sex and the college dynamic you'll figure out.  The other things are skinned knees and bruises.  These things are the life and death-y shit. 

Drugs and Booze.  I don't know what the world looks like on campus in 2016.  But for sure they haven't ceased bein' around and easily available since my day.  You're going to do what you're going to do, try what you're going to try.  None of us can prevent that.  As Smokey the Bear says, only you can prevent forest fires.  You're surrounded by the availability of drugs, but only you can decide whether or not you're willing to burn down the forest, (either through clumsy fumbling or on purpose) or not.  Choose wisely.  If as an adult you want to be the person who knows how to make the right call in life-y situations?  Your practice at it is now.  Be aware that the ramifications of those choices are ones that can haunt you and put things you want for yourself in peril for the rest of your life.

A friend owns a bar in BBGville, as their
daughter started her freshman year she
took the warning to heart so much so
that she taped her drinks closed.
Q: Who's more of an expert about the
dangers and the reality of booze bein'
tampered with than someone who's a
professional on booze AND people.
Heed this shit.
As for drinking?  (Other than the obvious, don't drink and drive.)  The major rule of thumb is don't be that guy/girl.  Don't be the girl with her head in a bucket sitting on the couch.  Don't be that guy who thinks that running through traffic slapping cars, or pickin' fights after a couple-a pops is acceptable.  It's douchbaggery and I'm not sure what the girl-y equivalent is, but it's that.  Know your saturation point.  If you're dancin' on the bar but still have control over reason and prudent judgment, that's the sweet spot.  If talking back to a police officer seems like a good idea, or hoppin' behind the wheel is probably ok?  You aren't in control of you, tequila is.  ABC:  Always Be (in) Control (of you).  (Even if it's only the core functions; stayin' alive, remaining un-maimed, and without a date for a court appearance.)

Use the buddy system.  For the same reason it worked in kindergarten.  Two heads and four fists are better than one (two).  To this day I use the buddy system.  How else do you think I've managed to resist slapping all of the people who've legit deserved to be slapped all these years?  A:  Friends capable of talkin' me out of being me for my own damn good.  #Invaluable

To steal a corporate tag; Just Do It.  Take every opportunity to grow and expand your universe you can.  Ok.  Not every.  Avoid things that are likely to result in a trip to the ER, jail or morgue.  I know you can't anticipate the result of every decision you make, but your family has already equipped you with the ability to see downrange in a host of situations you've never been an active participant in.  You know the answer to 75% of what might present itself, the variable is the other 25% which is comprised of your willingness to effectively manage your decisions.  In addition to expanding your personal circle and point of reference in the world, try things that might not be natural matches to your known skill sets.  Check out a club or team that you're not already good at, or knowledgeable about.  Even when you're not learning something directly beneficial to your career goals, lessons applicable to it can be gleaned from what seems like unlikely and surprising sources.  Volunteer with an organization where you'll meet and serve people living circumstances your unfamiliar with.  These years are the cocktail party years.  Lots of trays of new-to-you foods are passing by.  Indulge in what passes by because you've never been exposed to it before.  Maybe you won't like it.  Maybe it'll become your new favorite.  You won't know until you give it a whirl.  If you leave the party without trying the different things being offered you'll just be hungry and unfulfilled.  Manga.  Take a bite outta life.

Damn straight you're afraid.  You're being thrown into the unknown.  It's natural.  I'll let you in an adult-ing secret...  Whenever you do engage in something new there's fear.  This applies to everything.  (Fact:  Not 'everything', just things you have no experience with yet)  I have friends who have never been in the hospital and are uneasy (to functionally rendered immobile by being petrified) of medical-y settings.  I first remember being hospitalized at 9, so the process has never really been new to me, therefore I'm not afraid of any of that.  It's not new.  The faster you recognize that walking into a room full of strangers at college is scary only at first and then that's a thing of the past (because you've gained the security that you know what it's like), and that you can apply the same logic to sky diving, starting your first grownup job, or getting serious with someone, or any of the other 3.2 million things you'll be faced with over a lifetime that will be 'new'  and therefore easier to remain status quo about because ya don't know how to manage the fear and unease of change.  Learn the tools that work for you to overcome such trepidations. The fall flat on your face is easier to rebound from at your age.  When I see people my age who never really learned that lesson you can see in disparate areas of their lives how it's held them back from experiencing as much of life as they should/could, and stunts their ability to deal with things in productive/grownup ways.  On their jobs, in their love lives, in their sheer aptitude for being able to grab life by it's balls.  Again, don't be that guy/girl.  Everybody's afraid.  Only ballsy people decide not to allow that to be an impediment to their quest for doing what they want. 

Go forth and be bold.  You are going to crash and burn, because you are not a robot.  (Congrats on bein' people.)  Even under the best circumstances with the best intentions and using your best foot forward, I'm sorry to tell you, but swear that it's true, some fucked up shit is gonna happen to you.  It's how you rise from the down and out place that helps secure your place in the space.  How you're viewed, and how you view you.  To get a lil' less Seuss-y...

...The phoenix is revered, because he rose from the ashes.  Nobody remembers, or mentions how he got there, only how spectacularly he emerged from the flames.  BE A FUCKING PHOENIX.  Always. 

Mind the mental.  A good amount of mental illness presents itself in late teen to early adulthood.  What seems like fun loving and a lax sense of knowin' what's good for ya, could be a sign and a symptom of an undiagnosed, or mismanaged ailment.  Sussing out mental illness is difficult for Drs, so no one expects you to manage such mental minutiae, but do be aware that what when the outlandish is suggested, occasionally it's going to be less let's kick up our heels and more of a red flag.  Also, you (& your new classmates) are accustomed to the support system in your life, which has been family, friends, teachers/coaches.  College is made extra overwhelming because you don't have that built in system at as easy access as you once did, and ya haven't yet built a new support system.   Until you're roster is filled with your new day-to-day system remember to be kind to yourself as you staff Team You.   

The last thing you should know is that college is not for everybody.  And like with all other things, sometimes you know it's a non-fit only after you've tried it.  (Ask anyone with a divorce or a 'lower back tattoo'.)  College is meant to be hard.  Its main job is putting you through your paces in preparation for the next step of your life. (when we take off your life-y training wheels)  But college is not the only and absolute path to a lucrative and fulfilling life.  So don't ever think that this is the only option available to you.  The Most Fact-y Fact of 'Em All:  As long as your eyes pop open in the morning you have options.  And people who love you.

You are in charge of you.

(BBGW Readers,  If there are any glaringly integral omissions drop in a comment [it takes a village, yo].)



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