The Fun I Never Had in College

by sarahgrand

I have always been, and always will be, a “good girl.” But as my friend Bryan likes to say, I can easily be pushed over the edge to my more “wild side” by the right person…

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I’ve never really been the type to have a big group (or shall we say “squad”) of friends, but growing up, I pretty much always had one really close best friend at any given moment. 

“Best friend” means different things to different people. To some, a best friend is someone you can always rely on, someone you can tell all your problems to, someone who is always there. While I of course look for these things in any friendship, my best friendships haven’t necessarily been characterized by qualities like loyalty or dedication, but rather, by laughter. What has separated my best friends from simply my friends in the past has been how weird, silly, and hysterical we get together. 

In early high school, my best friend and I were so wild together that we actually got fired from our jobs as camp counselors (yes, I know this is probably shocking to most people…I was indeed fired from a job at one point in my life…but the camp let me work in the arts & crafts department instead…so it basically totally worked in my favor). In late high school, a different best friend and I were so weird together that we would write creepy love notes to this one totally random guy from my high school, and leave them at his house. We’d also do drive-bys past the house on a regular basis. What makes this whole situation even weirder is that neither of us even liked the guy. We were just having absolute, pure fun—the kind that results in uncontrollable laughter. We were so bizarre together that someone even kind of wrote a song about it. 

When I first got accepted to Cooper Union, I expected to meet a new best friend, or, if I was lucky, maybe even several of them, who I could take over the city with. I imagined getting dolled up (basically my favorite activity) and hitting up the town together, flirting with boys from ALL three schools (art, architecture, and engineering), and, of course, studying/freaking out to the point of fun delirium when it came to exam time. I thought my life would become some sort of mashup between The Big Bang Theory and Sex and the City.  

But, then, it never really happened. 

I didn’t make a best friend in college. In fact, I didn’t really make close friends in general. To be fair, there were a couple core guys I studied with, and a couple guys I dated, and those experiences were fun in their own ways. But during those four years, I didn’t meet a single girl I connected with in the same way I had with some of my middle school and high school friends. And without that close girlfriend/partner-in-crime/wing-woman figure, I didn’t take advantage of the city, or get into the shenanigans I thought I would, during college.

Oddly enough, my lack of a best friend (and the associated shenanigans) didn’t really bother me while I was actually in it. While I was in college, I was so caught up with schoolwork, studying, and figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, that I didn’t even really notice the…idk…HUGE discrepancy between my expectations and the reality of the experience. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I realized, “Shit. I just finished college, and that was it?!

I started to feel like I had this four-year window of opportunity to have fun and get a bunch of stuff out of my system, and suddenly it was over, and I hadn’t even cracked open the window. I felt like I had lost my chance, and could only make up for it by either doing something extreme, like moving to a new city (I can’t be the only person who’s ever thought that moving to London would solve ALL my problems), or doing something extremely free-spirited, like hostel-hopping in some other part of the world for an extended period of time. I figured I didn’t even have much time to do these sorts of “make-up” things either, before I would seem like a tragic cougar suffering from Peter Pan syndrome. Plus I didn’t even know if I had the guts to.

I talked to my parents about some of my frustrations, and they helped bring me back down to earth. They made me realize that maybe I was being too idealistic and romantic about college, and youth in general, and that while my college experience wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t terrible either (plus it was free). I came to terms with that, and moved on.

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About a year ago, I began looking for a new job. I was working at a big construction company at the time, as a civil cost estimator, and for reasons I can discuss in another post, it wasn’t for me. Towards the end of my college experience, I became very interested in design, technology, and entrepreneurship, and those interests kept growing in the years that followed, so I decided to look for jobs at startups.

Though I had pretty much come to terms with my college years, while applying to startups, I did have an inkling of hope that I could work somewhere fun, or at the very least, somewhere where I could meet new friends.

Last June, I started a new job at a startup called Market Realist. There are so many things I could say about the switch professionally. To keep things simple, I’ll just say this: career-wise, this switch was one of the best decisions of my life. And socially…well, I might not have had much luck in college, but here, I hit the jackpot!

After years of getting used to life without a super close best friend, I met one! At this job! And finally, at 24 years old, I’m having all the fun that I never had in college with a crazy-ass wing-woman who is up for LITERALLY anything (literally), and basically my separated-at-birth twin. I honestly feel like I’ve had enough laughs and fun in the last 9 months to make up for the last 6 years (see a small sampling of photos below), and I didn’t have to move away, or go back to school, or do anything extreme. 

During the last 9 months, I’ve realized that there actually isn’t a “window of opportunity” to have fun in life, like I once thought there was. Life can always be fun—I think you just have to surround yourself with the right people (see this post for help on that), and stay open to changing things up and trying new experiences. Even if you’re older than me, or married, or settled down, I think it’s totally possible to make small changes to do this, and it’s never “too late” (so don’t feel bad if it didn’t happen in college or wherever). This is especially easy if you live in or around New York City, where there’s live music, free museum tickets, trivia challenges, professional panel discussions (that make you feel like a corporate debutant…) and a bunch of other cool stuff LITERALLY every night. 

Last month, our startup’s developers visited from Argentina (basically a bunch of dudes), and while they were in town, we went out every night with them. One night, we sang karaoke until 3 am, and were all back in the office by 9 the next morning. I worked every day that week (and was busy AF if I remember correctly), but after it was all over, I felt oddly refreshed, like I had just returned from a vacation. But I hadn’t taken any days off, left Manhattan, or even spent much money. New York City, the city that kind of let me down in college, looks totally different to me now. Thank god I never ended up in London!