When someone asks me about my college-education, I like to give them the full, fancy, and lengthy description – it goes something like, “Oh, I earned a bachelors-degree in Communication Studies with an emphasis in Relational Communication and a minor in Leadership.” No big deal, or anything, right? I mean, that’s a pretty awesome mouthful of accredited credentials.
I love what I studied and what I learned from the few programs that I really gave myself to. I love the friends I made and the way college allowed me to grow from awkward, high-school boy to an extroverted man that could easily walk up and talk to anyone he wants to (on a good day). Strangely enough, I even learned to love some really tough professors – I appreciated the fact that they saw potential in me and refused to settle for my less-than-very-best efforts.
But here’s the thing…College didn’t teach me some things.
So here I am – a year and a month later – ready to share some nuggets about life with you. So pull up a lawn-chair, grab a cold drink (if you’re a hot coffee person in these Kansas summers – I don’t “get” you), and muster up all of the attention-span you have – a hard thing to do in the Smartphone-Era – and let me share 5 Things College Didn’t Teach Me.
- Your friendships and their dynamics will change – keeping them alive is in your hands. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I have some of the best-friends the world has to offer. The guys that are closest to me I’ve known the majority of my life, so they literally know the very best that I have to offer and the very worst, and somehow, they still love me. But post-college, our friendships have changed. Joey no longer lives two blocks from my house. Jake and I will never again have the opportunity to terrorize Hale Library with our caffeine-induced dance-parties while we are “studying”. And Bryce and I rarely have the opportunity to have 2 AM conversations about theology, followed shortly thereafter by my obnoxious laughter as I enter “Slap-Happy-Mode” around 3 AM. In order to maintain our brotherhood-like relationships, we have all had to purposefully set time in our schedules to meet semi-regularly. We still love each other – we still have some of the closest friendships I’ve ever been a part of, or witnessed – they just work a little differently now. And that’s okay. Good things are worth investing in. Sometimes, you have to put your pride aside and be the initiator. You can’t always wait for someone to call you – call them.
- Your definition of success better change, or you’re going to feel like a failure. Somehow, in my dream-world, I figured I’d have come up with some big ideas, written a book or two, landed on the New York Time’s best-seller list, married a hot babe, and moved out of my parent’s house by now. But I haven’t. My dream-jobs related to ministry, writing, and communication-coaching, etc. are wonderful, but thinking I’ll be a renowned success overnight is unrealistic. Sure, you have a college-degree, but so does the rest of the world. You have to be okay with working hard as a “low-level” employee, before you can have the big desk. The humble are raised up. Diligence and apathy are equally noted – despite the lack of “recognition” you feel now, it doesn’t mean that somewhere down the road, doors won’t be opened for the diligent, or closed on the lazy. God seems to enjoy surprising the faithful with wonderful, unexpected gifts. So keep your hand to the plow and stop feeling sorry for yourself.
- Your parents will always be your parents – get along with them. I’m strong-willed and wasn’t the easiest to raise. Yes, I was a Mama’s Boy and rarely did anything crazy to lose their trust as a youngster. But as I entered college and even as I graduated and returned home, I somehow thought that I could do life without them. First of all, that’s extremely prideful of me and very hurtful to them. Secondly, they love me a lot and I’ve really come to realize that. And finally, life is just a lot better when you get along with them. Respect their wishes and they’ll learn to respect that sometimes your wishes and views are a little different. They likely spent at least two decades of their life raising you, so it’s fair for them to hope that somehow you can still be “friends”. I’m gradually learning to be less defensive when my Mom asks me questions, because often, she is just genuinely curious. And I’m trying to keep my eyes from “glazing over” when my Dad speaks into my life, because it turns out, he’s pretty wise after all.
- You have to wake up early, if you want to accomplish anything. I did NOT do this in college. The only time I was awake before 9 AM was if I had pulled an all-nighter, or if we had an exam in my 8:30 AM class (exaggerating a little, but it was true once or twice). But I could get away with it then. You just can’t stay up until whenever you’ve finished the next season of Friday Night Lights and wake up whenever you want in the real-world. There are things to be done, relationships to invest in, and life to be lived. Spend some time in the Word, eat breakfast, make a coffee-run, and show up to work early. Your best work is never going to be rushed. I wrote a 5-page paper in AN HOUR once and still managed a B, and I spent 17 consecutive hours working on my senior-thesis and earned a B. But the truth is, I’m an A+ writer. There was never an excuse for me to get anything less than an A. I don’t procrastinate anymore. Mom wants to the lawn mowed – done. Customers need a call back – boom, I call them back. The boss needs me to come in early – I’ll be there earlier than early. Let’s get things done, people. Making excuses to stay in bed just leads to making excuses to put off other things later in the day.
- Your brothers and sisters are amazing gifts – do not take them for granted. Since elementary school when I first met Joey and we invited Jake into the “Triple J” brotherhood, I have always naturally gravitated more toward my friends than my siblings. But let me tell you something. Since moving back home, I’ve realized just how precious and valuable my relationships with my brothers and sisters are. Yes, they’re crazy. Jordan can be stubborn, Tyler can ask enough questions to make you think he’s a detective, Caitlin might kill you if you use her blue, popcorn bowl, and Brianna can be an angel one minute and not-such-an-angel the next. But I’ve had the blessing of spending more time with them lately – especially Tyler and Caitlin – and it’s been the best thing ever. They love me more than I’d ever previously recognized and trust me and my words of advice more than probably anyone else. It is such an honor to be their oldest brother. No matter your family situation (everyone has conflict in their families – it’s a fact of life), do not shut-out or take your siblings for granted.