Last November, I left school for what seemed like forever. I was done, over it, exhausted and burnt out—all only two weeks from the end of my first semester. A year later, after an intense vision quest in the deserts of Arizona and some less intense soul-searching as a part-time associate in a local chocolate store, I am finally finishing my first whole year of college. And no one’s bothered to say so much as “congratulations.”
It’s not that hard—I must be the only technically incoming first-year who is now, in number of credits, a sophomore, so it can’t be that hard for all the people I’ve regaled with tales of my semester off and the transfer process to just, maybe, text me “good job!,” “nice work!” or even “I’m so proud of everything you’ve struggled to accomplish!”
College is hard for everyone, and it’s even harder when you realize that you need to make a change. Our culture makes college seem like a magical time, but in reality, it’s actually really difficult. It takes a lot of guts to realize when it isn’t working out and to do something about it. I’m not picky, I just would like to be acknowledged.
You know what, no. I don’t need to be recognized. I’m no hero. I’m just an ordinary Citizen of the World, doing my best like everybody else. I’m not special. All I did was drop out of college, then get accepted to a school that is a better personal fit for me, in the meantime experiencing all sorts of emotional learning and personal growth.
I’m a friggin’ adult now, and it wasn’t easy getting here, so I don’t need any form of recognition for just living my life. People don’t get awards for that. That’s just what we’re supposed to do.
A card would be nice though. Nothing fancy, just, like, Hallmark, or a homemade pop-up card that someone spent hours on because they’re so grateful for how my life story has inspired them to change their own life. Maybe not in such drastic ways as dropping out of college, but definitely in smaller, collectively meaningful ones. I’d take dinner, even, or a gift card to Nordstrom, or tickets and backstage passes to a Chance the Rapper concert—any reasonably sized token of acknowledgement and celebration. It’s a big deal to finish anything in college, much less a whole year.
It’s okay, I guess. I don’t need any acknowledgement from my peers. When I get home, they’ll probably throw a parade or something. You see, there actually are not that many people from Nashville who go to college. Except for all the students at Vanderbilt, UTK, UTC, Tennessee Tech, Vol State, Rice, UT Memphis, Austin Peay University, Belmont, Lipscomb, Trevecca, plus anyone who goes to school out of state. So not very many at all. I’d say I’m definitely special.
Small gestures mean a lot to the people around you; if you ever get the chance, appreciate the crap out of the accomplishments of your friends and loved ones. I am strong and can handle this kind of neglect, but other people aren’t so resilient. Their sense of self is really, really impacted by recognition. They’re fragile. As sad as that is, it offers an opportunity for self-reflection. We can look at ourselves and say, “You know what? It truly wouldn’t be all that much skin off my nose to pay for Blair to go on an all-inclusive Swiss ski adventure for all of winter break. He deserves it. He’s a sophomore now.”
If anyone reading this would like to offer me an apology, if not dinner and a show with the reanimated corpse of Hollywood legend Gene Wilder, you can find me in the Cushing MPR. I forgot to wish my mom a happy birthday, and I’m trying to quickly learn how to do origami with discarded candy wrappers I found in my room, so I’ll be in there for a while this whole week.
If I can’t figure it out, I’m just going to tell her the post office lost it or something. It’s the thought that counts. Anyway, come shower me with praise when you get the chance.