Where Did You Learn What?

Roary and Fordham Ram

I have several absolutely charming younger relatives who are in college right now.  Covid-19 sent them back from attending college away from home—or in one case, may keep him from going away to college next year.  They’re all smart.  All academically gifted.  They are definitely equipped to learn remotely.

But I find myself thinking about all the lessons I learned that I wouldn’t have learned if I hadn’t gone away to college.  One of the most important was learning how to deal with difficult people.  While I had many terrific roommates (shout out to Sue Koss, Kathy Curran, Rosemarie Connors, and Gloria Gonzalez, among others), I also had some ugly experiences as well.  These included three older girls coming into my room one night and trying to intimidate me into moving out.

Yes, Old Debbie, New Debbie, and Chris, I haven’t forgotten how you came to my bedroom doorway (we were in an apartment-style dorm) when you knew Sue was away and told me I should move out, ending with, “Do you really want to live with people who HATE you?”

I hope you remember this incident, too, and burn with shame that you could do that to an eighteen-year-old away from home for the first time, right after her parents had just split.  Why?  Because you wanted my space for one of your pals.

While that was the worst and most dramatic incident, it wasn’t the only such nasty event.

But I learned from it and, to this day, I know I can deal with bullies.

I learned to manage my time, a skill which remains incredibly valuable.  I learned to manage my money.  Ditto.  I learned how to interact with a wide variety of people in a wide variety of posts, because if I didn’t, there was no one I could turn to.

I realize in this day and age of cellphones and helicopter parenting, your average college students aren’t as thrust upon their own resources as I was, but still, I’d like to think that most college students want to try to solve their own problems before scurrying off to the folks.

There are other things I learned.  I was exposed to books and music that had nothing to do with my lessons, but which certainly shaped who I have become.  I learned that there are a lot of different sorts of family dynamics.  I heard wonderful anecdotes.  I played a lot of AD&D and Traveller.  I made decisions about drinking and drugs that had nothing to do with whether or not I’d get “caught.”

I learned a lot in college, both in the classroom and out.  Where did you learn your most valuable lessons?  I’d love to hear from the commuters, too!

6 Responses to “Where Did You Learn What?”

  1. James Mendur Says:

    The biggest lessons I learned in college:
    I learned about failure and how to change my goals without help from my family. (As I was the first one in college, they had no frame of reference to help me.)
    In college, I learned that people who are supposed to be in charge (the R.A.s) can’t be trusted if helping me makes them look bad. Long story.

    The little lessons in college were much like yours: music and books, questioning religion, and the need for and uses of money.

    Then I learned one more big lesson right as college ended: everything I had been promised was a lie. I’d grown up with the lie that if I kept my head down, kept my nose clean, worked hard and got a college degree, I’d get a good job in my field and be set for life.

    I graduated right after the 1987 stock market crash. Oops. I never worked in my field. I survived and eventually got a job in the financial industry with help from my family, but I never again believed the lies.

  2. King Ben's Grandma Says:

    I didn’t go to college. I moved out with my best friend from high school after we graduated. We both worked two part time jobs, one together.
    I learned all my lessons from having responsibility thrust onto me at a very young age. My single mother made me responsible for my younger brother as far back as I can remember.
    My life hasn’t been easy, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Every day is an adventure and an opportunity to learn and have fun.

    I used to feel like I “missed out” by not going to college. Before becoming disabled I worked for the same company for 15 years (the one my roommate and I both worked at). I know how to do research to find information about subjects that interest me. I think the only thing i missed out on was the debt 😉

    • janelindskold Says:

      This is definitely a form of education. When I taught college, some of the most interesting students were the “non-traditional” who had gone out and lived a bit before deciding what to study. This is VERY different than the trend toward a “gap year” which, especially among the affluent, is often simply a party year.

  3. ChickadeeRose Says:

    College helped me learn a lot about how to meet deadlines, juggle many things at once, and how to communicate your needs and desires to others. It taught me how to research, how to condense time, and how to be a friend to a friend in need. It taught me that I can survive on my own.

    Honestly, though, my greatest lessons have come long after college when I began traveling. Those were the lessons that taught me I am a stronger person than I had ever realized, that I can rely on myself when life gets crazy, that most people are honest and good, that the ‘bad’ people are not worth my breath, and that I am far more adaptable than I had ever thought possible. Travel has taught me that not only can I survive, but that I can thrive in any world in which I am willing to roll with the punches but never allow a punch to keep me down.

    College was an experience that helped me become more curious about my surrounding world, but travel is what has let me see it.

  4. Harried Harry Says:

    I had a “three gap years” since I went into the US Army right out of high school. In those days I just wanted to get away from home and find some peace. I left behind a family of 12 siblings and my parents. The Army wasn’t quite what I thought it would be since the Vietnam War was raging and I was just another recruit.

    I survived, came back and then started college. The first school I attended was a commuter school which was not what I needed after being overseas for two years. I didn’t know anyone so I was very lonely. I found another school and changed my location to this one from which I graduated with decent grades.

    I learned a lot about people and myself. At times I wish I had followed one of my Professor’s requests to go on to graduate school. It only took me another 30 years before I finished my Master’s. The information I learned in college aided me in obtaining a job which I stayed with for 35 years. I’ve also been a student of the “school of hard knocks” which taught me a lot about myself and others. The one thing which has never changed is how much I enjoy reading and learning from the articles I read.

    My children take after me in that they read a lot. Two are in the genius level and the third one is near genius. I’m not sure where the genes came from but they have them. Having children who have grown to adulthood is something I never thought would happen for me. Seeing them move on in life as my life changes direction is always a treat.

    When I was a kid, I was very introverted. I learned to be more of an extrovert and even did some acting when I was young. However, I’ve also learned to understand some of my limitations and accept them. I may not like them, but I have them so I just go on as best I can.

    Interesting topic which has meaning for everyone. Whether a person attended a college or university or just the School of Hard Knocks, we all learn something which we can use in our lives.

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