What College Taught Me (That Had Nothing To Do With Class)


There’s this earth-stopping feeling that has overcome me often in my post-high school life – thoughtful, grateful, peaceful. I’ve come to associate it with my favorite table at my favorite coffee shop in my little college town. I’m two years out of undergrad, and with this sentiment I feel like I’m right there. That I’m where I’m supposed to be.

I associate it with crisp fall, cozy winter, drizzling spring, and restful summer. It’s as if I simply cannot feel more grateful than I do right in that moment. That the sheer joy in my life confounds me. How did I get so blessed to live the life that I get to live? The sentimental side of me wants to do nothing but cozy up with a mug of tea and smile.

I felt like this a lot when I was in undergrad, and this particular emotion has evaded me for much of the last two years since I graduated. But now, in the middle of the work day on a Tuesday, I feel overwhelmingly grateful for no particular reason.

Life is really tricky. Trying to establish a career and finishing grad school and drowning in student loan debt and paying $1500 a month in rent for a half of a 2 bed/1 bath in Northern California are all things that have pressured me to feel stress. Keep running. Don’t stop. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get stuck occasionally in a cruel trap of self-pity that forbade me from feeling truly grateful for where I am and how I got here.

But that lovely feeling of contentment and gratitude is one of the best gifts undergrad gave me. More than two years since my commencement, and I see with a startling sense of clarity that, while full of its fair share of beer and frantic pre-exam all-nighters, my time in college taught me to be still. I found energy from my table at my coffee shop. I found gratefulness. As a first generation college student who wanted nothing more than to spread my wings wider than my small town would let me, I learned about myself in those moments of stillness.

And so now, as I sip on my tea and sit and smile, I’m clinging to this sense of gratefulness. As I seek to slow down, be still, and reconnect, I remember that this is me. Who I am is not my work week or my painfully high rent or my student loan debt or any of my numerous shortcomings. I am joyful, I am grateful. I am here. I am present. And I am where I am supposed to be.