If I Had To Do College All Over Again

Since we’ve been talking about college so much, whether about missing it or getting into it, I thought I’d share what I would do differently at college if I knew then what I know now. (Of course, some of you know how I freak out about alternate timelines so this is only in the case that my current timeline wouldn’t be affected because if my action were to erase my three beautiful babies I would just GAH!!!)

Anyhow, my mild hysterics aside, here are some things I would change:

1) Study. I was a smart kid in high school and got by with minimal studying and relied mostly on my smarts. Unfortunately, what I failed to realize once I got into UCLA was that EVERYONE who got into UCLA was smart so I wasn’t anything special. Therefore, the students who actually studied would do better than the smart but lazy students. Futhermore, no matter how intelligent a person is, smarts are meaningless in the absence of actual knowledge. My being smart was useless since I didn’t have ANY knowledge about physics or advanced microbiology.

2) Change majors. I had this weird idea that being “Undeclared” was a highly laughable situation for hippies who wanted to “find themselves” and had nothing but contempt for them. I mocked people who kept changing majors but in reality, it was a case of “the lady doth protest too much.” Why was I so hung up on being consistent and faithful to a major that I didn’t really understand what it was when I chose it? I was sixteen years old when I applied for college. (I didn’t turn eighteen until my second year at UCLA so I was nicknamed “Jail Bait.”) Why would I expect my sixteen year old self to know ANYTHING about majors and what they entailed?

I don’t really know what I would’ve changed my major to. I knew pretty early on that I no longer wanted to go the Pre-Med route but was too afraid to tell my parents since I had convinced them to let me go to UCLA on account of UCLA having a great medical school. I was worried that if I changed my major, my parents would tell me to transfer to Cal (which was far too close to my parents’ house for my liking).

It’s not that I didn’t like Microbiology & Molecular Genetics, it’s just that everything was so SMALL and required a microscope. And looking into microscopes make me nauseous because of the constant changing depth of field when going back and forth between the microscope and my lab book. It made me motion sick. I should’ve taken that as a sign.

However, looking back, I would’ve liked to switch to Chemistry (I found that endlessly fascinating but was terrified of Physical Chemistry so I chickened out) or Psychology (too bad I thought it was such a pseudoscience at the time). Or Asian American Studies (which screams, “Hire me”) or Business (I didn’t want to take more math). And now that I’m older, perhaps even Computer Science (at the time, I didn’t even understand what programming was – just that I wasn’t some geeky Asian dude who played video games all day or the fact that my father said I wasn’t smart enough to do it).

3) Get a job. Technically, I had a job as a Program Assistant my senior year but I didn’t really do anything and am surprised I kept my job all year long. I didn’t know how to do interviews. (I showed up to an interview in glasses, barely combed hair, a thermal long-sleeved shirt, and torn jeans. I also marked that I had a misdemeanor because I thought a speeding ticket was a misdemeanor. One of my friends who was really good at her job was completely appalled that that was how I showed up. She coached me so I could actually get the PA job.) I didn’t know how to write a resume. I didn’t have confidence that I could do anything at all – so having a low stakes job in college would’ve been really helpful. However, I was convinced my parents didn’t want me to work and focus only on my studies, so I never asked. (Sense a theme, here?)

4) Be less self-righteous and rigid with my beliefs. Granted, I graduated when I was twenty so as a teenager, I thought I knew everything. I was convinced that I had being a Christian all figured out and that my parents were total hypocrites and Pharisees (when really, so was I!) and was such an ungrateful little shit. Besides, it’s really easy to be all “Jesus loves everyone and we should give all our money to the poor” when you have never worked an honest day’s wages in your entire life and had everything handed to you on a silver platter. (I went to UCLA during the dotcom boom so we were pretty flush.)

5) Not be so obsessed with boys and being in a relationship. How many hours of my life did I waste on drama with boys? GAH. So stupid. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Some of the boys were fine people. (Many were not.) But how sad that I focused so much of my self-worth and time on boys instead of myself? LAME.

6) Pursued interests other than my Christian Fellowship. I loved my Christian fellowship (InterVarsity). I learned so much about Jesus and most of my conviction about social justice came from them. However, they were not the only things I loved or cared about. I wish I had taken the lead role in a musical my senior year instead of turning it down. (I said it was because God wanted me to spend more time with non-Christians on my floor, but really, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to memorize all those lines and songs and would fail in a spectacularly public way.) Instead of letting InterVarsity take over my entire life, I wish I had the strength to pursue other interests without bowing to the pressure (whether intentional or not) to do EVERYTHING InterVarsity.

Sadly, like so much of my life, much of my decisions in college were influence by fear. If there is one thing I am realizing my blog is about more and more, it’s about living a life without fear. Who knows what I could’ve become had I not been so afraid of my parents, my self, or other people’s opinions? Alas, I will never know. But it definitely encourages me to live my life NOW without fear.

What would you do differently?

Why Are We So Afraid to Grow Old?

After all, people do know that the alternative to growing old is to die young, right? Personally, I’d prefer OLD, OLD, OLD to DEAD, DEAD, DEAD any day of the week.

Now, of course, most people don’t object to being alive – it’s a host of old-related problems that we’re worried about: health, money, our physical attributes and abilities deteriorating, mental acuity fading, etc. No one wants to be SICK and old or FRAIL and old, or what have you. However, in general, I don’t think anyone wants to be sick or frail at any age – it’s just that we associate these infirmities mostly with the elderly.

It might also be that I’m not really old yet. I’m turning thirty-five in a few weeks and then, I will be able to run for any office in the US. (Thanks, parents, for having the foresight to have me in the US! Sorry to everyone else should I ever go temporarily insane and run for public office.) Plus, I’m in a new age demographic! Go, me! My thirties have been awesome so far, so I don’t really expect the latter half of this decade to be any different. Nor do I expect any of the upcoming decades to be so bad, either.

It’s weird to be at an age you distinctly recall your parents being. It’s also weird being at an age where ten years ago, I would’ve considered middle-aged! (I certainly don’t consider myself middle-aged. After all, who wants to die at 70? Middle-aged should be 45-50, right? We’re all gonna live til we’re 100!)

But you know what’s not weird? Being older than I was before.

I pity people who mock me or tease me about being “old” (because they are young, foolish, and have LITTLE TO NO INDEPENDENT INCOME). I LOVE being the age that I am. What did I know when I was a teenager? Or when I was in my twenties? (Come to think of it, I will likely look back in a few years and think, “What did I know when I was in my thirties? I was such a baby!”)

When I think back to myself in my late teens and early twenties, all I want to do is go back in time and punch myself in the throat. Why? Because I was such an asshat. So full of self-righteous indignation, trembling in my sincerity to “do good” but having no means or skills with which to do anything, and thinking that being young, smart, and full of potential was enough. That “passion” was more important than money or stability or pretty much, anything.

BAH!! Get off my lawn, you stupid kid! It’s easy to have the luxury of such thinking when your parents subsidize your educational and living expenses.

Don’t get me wrong. I think passion is important. Doing good, also, important. But you know what? Money is a lot more important than I ever realized. (This will be a post for another day, but truly, only a person who was coddled, spoiled, rich and wealthy and super-privileged such as myself would ever think that money was NOT important.) Stability and practicality – also vital!

Ok, I suppose I’m being rather harsh with my younger self. After all, if I didn’t go through what I did, I wouldn’t be the Me that I am today. (Which is awesome.) And if anything had changed – likely, I would not be married to Hapa Papa with my awesome kids. I’d have a different set of awesome kids, perhaps – but just thinking about that and how time travel would affect my current timeline and perhaps erase my current beautiful life and children nearly reduces me to tears so it’s just as well that time travel is impossible (that we know of for NOW – dun dun dun!!!) because nothing’s sadder than a huge, pregnant lady crying about fictional things that are currently not possible and as of yet, have not happened – and if it did, WOULD NEVER KNOW.

Sorry. Tangent.

What was this post supposed to be about? Right. Growing OLD.

Truthfully, I suspect that I will always think that the age at which I am currently is the norm and not OLD. Surely, that is a moniker reserved for OTHER people. Not people such as myself! And when I am truly, actually old (like 70 or 80 or 90+), then really, the problem will be that everyone else is simply far too YOUNG.

Also, from here on out, I declare that we use the “er” method that Hapa Papa often employs to get out of trouble. Instead of telling me I’m “stupid,” he says, I’m getting “stupider.” Good thing I find this hilarious so he usually skirts out of trouble this way. So, really, we’re not all getting old. We’re getting older – which is totally and absolutely fact without judgment or baggage.

Anyhow, I meant this post to actually celebrate being older. I don’t know how I diverged into ranting. (Though truth be told, is anyone surprised that I started ranting?) So, in no particular order, not all-inclusive, (and obviously, YMMV since not everyone is me, nor in my privileged state), why I love getting older:

– Greater purchasing power
– Being more sure of myself, who I am, and what I am doing
– Wisdom (accumulated through lots of failure)
– Not being afraid to speak my mind (still working on this, but for the most part, pretty good)
– Savings
– Security
– Stability (in both life circumstances as well as emotional maturity)
– Freedom from following fads and trends
– Long time friends
– Making new friends
– Pursuing things that actually interest me vs. pursuing things that I think should interest me
– COSTCO (I thought I liked Costco when I was younger, but truly, now that I’m older, it is MY FAVORITE PLACE TO BE BESIDES MY OWN HOME)
– Freedom to stay at home
– Freedom to NOT drink (being constantly pregnant and breastfeeding also helps)
– Watching my friends grow into who they are
– Realizing that I can watch most things without consequence (I don’t really ever have to think about ratings or whatever as long as my kids aren’t involved)
– Actually enjoying being informed (vs glorying in my total ignorance and being proud of that fact when I was younger)
– Not driving around for hours just to find free parking
– Being able to afford luxuries such as concert tickets, massages, pedicures, etc without thinking overly much about it
– Being in a good place (emotionally, financially, and physically) to raise children
– Minivans are awesome and it’s ok
– Not having to ask permission (but often, having to ask for forgiveness – I guess humility is good, too)
– Learning to let things go and be more flexible
– Freedom to be a curmudgeon and blame it on age

I’m sure there are scads more in benefits, but even while making the list, I realize that I presume a lot about aging – that it brings more financial security and freedom. Obviously, that is not the case for many people (or even most people). So clearly, my list reflects that bias. Since I have no adequate response for that, I will just leave you with my favorite line from Fried Green Tomatoes. “Face it, girls, I’m older and I have more insurance.”