On March 23rd,
I celebrated my 21st birthday. I spent my day inside the
DNA nanopore lab, singing in my head repeatedly, “I'm legal, I'm
legal, I'm legal”. After logging a nearly 11 hour work day and not
a single person acknowledging birthday, I went home, watched criminal
minds and went to bed. I woke up the next day at 7am to repeat my
day. Maybe I shouldn't have used the word celebrated.
In college, 21 means
something a lot different then it does in the real world (shocker, I
know). To make an analogy for those who many not fully understand,
turning 21 for a college student is equivalent to the joy of
receiving your Ph.D from MIT after 5 long and painful years of
waiting. Part of the special day includes 357 “friends” writing
on your facebook wall, bringing wine to the library in a non-see
through cup, constant text messages/ bbms asking your plans for the
night (even if it is a Tuesday) and the opportunity to disregard
responsibility, put on a party hat and live a little bit. For the
pride of my parents, I will refrain from going into details of what
exactly it means to “live a little bit” to a college student.
The question at hand is
simple, what do we give up to be successful in life? Have I thrown
away my youth in order to ensure a providing future for myself ?
I'm sure you've heard it before, but let me share with you a quote from Tom Petty ….. Lets just say its a good thing he made it as a singer.
“You have four years to be irresponsible here. Relax. Work is for people with jobs. You'll never remember class time, but you'll remember time you wasted hanging out with your friends. So, stay out late. Go out on a Tuesday with your friends when you have a paper due Wednesday. Spend money you don't have. Drink 'til sunrise. The work never ends, but college does."
The quote above reflects
the direct opinion of the many majority of college students within
the US. My friends from school often see me as a “grandma” or a
“nerd” because of my ability to turn down fun for studying and
school related obligations. To be honest, I often see my friends as
irresponsible and likely to be the victims of unemployment upon
graduation. I joke about home-schooling my children, as majority of
my sorority sister are education majors, when in reality – IM NOT
JOKING ! I bite my tongue as I am ridiculed for being somewhat
intelligent, is it even worth engaging in dialog with people who are
so naïve? The answer is no, do not explain yourself or your long
term goals to students within the college of arts & crafts,
simply because they will not understand.
As I cope with the
disappointment of not celebrating my 21st birthday in lieu
of working and temporarily retiring from college life, I suppose
being paid today is a good reminder of why I am enroot to becoming an
engineer. As I listen to my friends cash federal aid refund checks
for spring break, I will look extra pale in my white lab coat.
Although I have missed out on a lot of typical “college things”,
I must say the opportunity to have a life beyond college justifies
all. Indeed, it will be my tax dollars that supplies and aids the
less driven in this society but there is always a double edged sword.
So here is my first toast as legal, “Cheers to those who realize bills need to be paid and there is a life beyond college! Despite what you've sacrificed, it is all worth it.”