1,963 days is what it took for me to graduate college. 260 of those days were spent as a freshman, where I hit my rock bottom. 369 of those days were spent in agony after I had received a letter stating I had been kicked out of college, where most of those days have been completely blocked out of my memory. 112 of those days were spent in a crappy community college taking a few classes that I could transfer back to my college. 129 of those days were spent working in a state 14 hours away from home to make sure I was in the correct head space to return to college. 137 of those days were spent taking online classes due to a global pandemic. Most college students take about 1,460 days to graduate but it took me 1,963. That’s approximately 5.4 years of my life dedicated to my studies. I wouldn’t change it for the world because I learned a lot that I never expected to learn while in college.
In these 1,963 days, I have learned a lot about loss. I experienced a new friend group made up entirely of confused young adults that would end up ridiculing me when I attempted to keep the friendship alive. I learned a lot about what a toxic friendship looks like. I felt the soul crushing heartbreak of losing childhood pets. I learned what hopelessness felt like. I discovered that family can be whoever you choose and that losing family can actually be one of the best things for you.
In 1,963 days, I learned a lot about vehicles. I experienced what happens to a vehicle that is driving up a hill with a cracked alternator. I learned how to visit dealerships to look for a working vehicle and how a salesman can lose his job if the trade in vehicle isn’t assessed properly. I learned what the crunching of a 2015 Hyundai Genesis’ metal sounds like when it’s t-boned. I experienced driving on a popped tired in a pathetic attempt to order milk tea before a final exam. I understood what invasion of privacy feels like when a stranger breaks into your truck to steal coins from your built in ashtray.
In 1,963 days, I learned how universities run. I saw how universities can talk all day long about supporting mental health when in reality, they tell students that they’re being dramatic and that others have it worse. I witnessed favoritism between campuses and fields of study. I learned that faculty will try not to help you until you threaten to take your life. I experienced poor judgment in regards to the safety of students. I watched racially charged threats occur and, while professors hid students of color in locked classrooms, the university insisting it wasn’t happening.
In 1,963 days, I learned about living arrangements. I realized that you can never get too comfortable in the place you call home because something can happen that will cause your home to be uprooted in the blink of an eye. I learned that you have to fight for things in your home to get fixed quite often. I experienced the quickest ways to move in the shortest periods of time and that garbage bags are your best friends for packing clothes. I learned that, no matter how much you try, your rent will only get higher. I experienced the beauty of stray cats wandering apartment complexes at night. I realized first hand that you can keep as many small rodents in your apartment as you want without ever paying a pet deposit.
In 1,963 days, I learned about love. I experienced the love from a partner who truly cares for you rather than love from a partner who only uses you for personal gain. I learned that platonic love can occur with friends you’ve never met face to face. I watched myself fall in love with local stores and city skylines. I realized that I loved my college major and that was the only thing I needed to know I was on the right path for my life.
In 1,963 days, I learned about self-esteem. There will always be a better writer, someone who speaks in a way that oozes higher intelligence than yourself, and comparing yourself to that benefits no one. I experienced that defying typical beauty standards can actually be one of the most empowering things a woman can do. I learned that some of the things that make you feel powerful and beautiful are not things that everyone agrees with but that shouldn’t matter if you’re happy in your skin. There’s enough time to improve on yourself and become the person you want to be.
In 1,963 days, I learned a lot about money. I learned that, no matter how hard you try, you cannot have spending sprees while making minimum wage. I realized that doing your taxes is the most obnoxious thing in the world. I worked tirelessly with people at my college to get the best financial aid for me, which also taught me new things about FAFSA that most people don’t know about.
In 1,963 days, I learned about time management. I endured working a part time job while being a full time student and managing to make straight A’s. I learned what to do during a 2 hour block between classes when you don’t have the time or gas to go home until your next class. I managed to work, go to class, and teach myself how to play the guitar and ukulele. I even squeezed concerts, date nights, and trips to Atlanta into my days as well. I experienced how to ration my time to complete 50 pages worth of writing in 1 week and how to pull an all nighter while still being functional the next day. I learned how to juggle a full time job while taking an online class while completing an internship.
I learned how to navigate tons of niche paperwork only required for unique circumstances. I experienced what it felt like in a theater full of students who received an email saying that campus will be closed due to a global pandemic. I navigated terrible roommates and what to do about them. I watched a writing group I loved crumble at the hands of inexperienced new leadership. Above all, I learned what it feels like to succeed and graduate with 5 years of life lessons under my belt.