The course of college never did run smooth

Peter McCormick notes that for all their blessings, our college years can be a punch, and they’re supposed to be

This is a piece that I was determined not to write, because it was only intended to be written in my final year, and that time was never supposed to arrive. Writing for a college paper was supposed to be something that I’d do eventually, but in reality I never would, because I’d be too busy having sex, or doing whatever it is that one is supposed to do in college. Yet now it is final year, and I am not having sex, so I really ought to write.

“I discovered that I was far more scared looking into my last year in Trinity than I had ever been looking into my first.”

This, of course, is a pretentious attempt at catharsis, written by an equally pretentious twit who has spent far too much of his ridiculously privileged existence moaning about trivialities. It’s a written acknowledgement that it’s fourth year, and I haven’t gotten around to doing half as much as I planned. I was supposed to go to every event for every society to which I signed up during Freshers’ Week of first year. Then, suddenly, it was Freshers’ Week of final year, and I discovered that I was far more scared looking into my last year in Trinity than I had ever been looking into my first. I gazed at all the stalls and stands, all the society jackets and jumpers, all the props and paraphernalia and was struck by a sobering realisation that I had achieved far less in college than I ever thought I would. I didn’t go on every trip, join every society, rise to the top of every exec and befriend every student. I didn’t join the fencing society. I stopped rowing after one training. I banged my head off far more desks than headboards. I went to the gym on 3 November 2016, but I didn’t get a six-pack. 

I genuinely did think I would do more. I truly did believe that I would conquer Trinity. It goes without saying that I did not. While I can honestly state that I am not consumed by a sense of longing and regret, I cannot shake the sense that there is some small amount of opportunity I have lost. I suppose, as the big bad world looms before me, I am preemptively pining the extraordinary convenience for trying new things which Trinity offers. 

Of course, there is still time. I know this. But with the ticking clock echoing in my ear, I do have a score to settle. I have listened to the phrase “your college years will be the best years of your life” too many times to be passive about it anymore. I do not know if this phrase is true, yet I rather hope it’s not, as my college years are soon to come to an end. Life would become rather depressing if I knew myself to be past the best of it. Regardless of its validity, the cliché shrouds what college truly is: a sobering knock to the balls.

I made the most amazing friends. I lost one or two of those friends. I drank far too much coffee. I spent so much time laughing, crying, studying, masturbating, singing, acting, joking, learning, travelling, moaning, working, and worrying. For all the opportunities, experiences, pints and stories, college is hard. I do not for an instant pretend to have shared the same hardship as those who have had to work absurd hours to keep the Dublin landlords at bay, nor have I endured anything comparable to the challenges faced by so many who have struggled with personal or familial strains. I am absurdly lucky; I do honestly know this. I cannot, to the envy of most, claim to have experienced any great adversity while at Trinity. But I have experienced the Trinity that welcomes you to your twenties by constantly reminding you that you don’t really know anything, that you don’t have your life perfectly worked out, and that your penis is substantially smaller than you pretend it is. The comfort of this is the knowledge that such is the case for most of us. 

“I spent the guts of 18 years looking forward to college. Ultimately, it has not been what I expected or planned.”

So to every Freshers’ leaflet and article that claimed this would indeed be four years of pure fun, friendships and fetishes – I must say no. I spent the guts of 18 years looking forward to college. Ultimately, it has not been what I expected or planned. But it has been a lot, and for better or worse, I have shared experiences which have impacted the wanky notion I hold of myself. I have promised myself that, over the next year, I shall write some of them, reflect upon the absurdity of most of them, and probably conclude that I am all the better for them. And who knows? All going well, I shall adapt them for a novel. I shall call it “Ordinary Blokes”. People would eat that shit up.