Most of the people who read this blog are post-college, or at least the age of post-college folks, but I know a few of you “new adults” are still actually matriculating, so this post is primarily directed at you. I had an awesome time in college, I learned a fair amount in school, I made a handful of friends who I will keep forever and I grew up (some). I also got to spend 4 years, summers included, in Montreal, which is one of the best cities the world. For that, I am forever grateful.
That being said, looking back at the experience, I can’t help but feel there are some things I wish I’d done differently, which would have affected my immediate post-college life and possibly my life as it is, now. Like the song goes, I wish I knew what I know now when I was younger. So, after considering how hard it is for kids fresh out of school these days, I thought I’d share a little bit of real talk that that I would tell my younger self, if that was possible and hope it will give you kids a leg up on your peers once you get out.
- Intern your face off, dummy. When I got out of school, I moved to LA to be in a band and to try to find an entry-level job in media. Except, I didn’t have any “experience” and, like a dummy, I didn’t realize that the only way to get “experience” is to work in your chosen field for free. For a whole year, I worked shitty service jobs, while diligently checking Craigslist and sending out unimpressive resumes, which were always neglected, before I realized, “Oh, I need to intern.” Then, I had to spend months supporting myself by selling Greenpeace donations on the street during the weekends while I interned at a startup during the week. I could have interned while still in college, if I’d given half a fuck. Don’t wait until you get, out kids. Start working immediately, while you’re still (hopefully) on your parents’ dimes.
- Take the time to learn a foreign language. I’m sorry, maybe thinking about college is bringing it out, but that’s the second direct Wes Anderson reference in this post (he was my favorite filmmaker in college, obviously). But, seriously, I lived in a city that was 60% French, took two years of French in college (not to mention five in high school and middle school) and I can only speak well enough to ask directions or order at a restaurant. And it’s not because I’m dumb. It’s because I was fucking lazy. Most of my other classes either excited me, or at least allowed me to bullshit my way through them with minimal effort. But to learn a foreign language, it takes WORK. Like tons of work. I didn’t put the time in then and now, I’ll never be able to move to Paris and work as a reality show producer. Which is TOTAL bullshit.
- Spend a semester abroad. I justified my decision not to live abroad for a term by telling myself that I was already living abroad, in Canada. That’s kind of true, but it’s also bullshit. I don’t think Montreal is any more different from my hometown than going to school in another big, weird city in a different part of North America would have been. The reason I didn’t go abroad for a term was because I didn’t want to have to make new, abroad friends – I already had so many awesome friends. Again, laziness, folks.
- “Bird courses” are for the birds. Take shit you’re actually into. I was mostly pretty good at taking classes I was genuinely interested in, but I remember taking a couple “computer courses” I never attended, and my last semester, I took a high-level English class pass/fail, which let me completely phone it in. That was me not being rational about why I was there.
- Take classes other places. Montreal has four major universities, and tons of other smaller schools. And there were a bunch of stuff I was interested in learning, but couldn’t be bothered to try and find a place to learn it. I knew I wanted to know how to do media production, which my school didn’t offer, but I never thought about how easy it would be to walk the eight blocks to Concordia University, which had a full media school and easily transferrable credits, to learn something useful, dammit.
- Smoke waaaaay less pot. Oh my god, I smoked so much pot in college, it’s kind of unbelievable. I can barely get near the stuff these days, because it makes me think of all the time wasted while high in my late teens/early twenties. I’m not saying I shouldn’t have gotten high at all, I just shouldn’t have done it nearly as much. Idiot.
- Don’t be completely disgusting.During one of our big “discussions” about cleaning, I was telling my girlfriend how, in my college apartment (5 dudes in a giant, dilapidated flat), we would go days without a single clean dish in the whole place. Every single bit of cookware, every dish, every utensil would just sit on the counter, fermenting in grime, because no one wanted to do other peoples dishes. It was, like, the grossest game of chicken in history, until one dude, Casey Brewer, would ultimately break, put on his rubber gloves and science goggles, and spend one to two hours doing ALL the dishes.This one wouldn’t necessarily have changed anything about my life now, but it would have dramatically improved the type of girls I could have brought home back then. Which lord knows I could have used.
- Don’t get involved with girls you’re not actually interested in. This one is more personal, and took me years to learn, but a few years ago, I finally realized I’m not into or especially good at the random drunken hookup or pointless sexual conquest, with whichever attractive-enough person is just there. Even if I got “lucky”, if I didn’t think the girl was great, I wouldn’t enjoy myself. And I’d be endlessly worried about bumping into them again or having contracted STDs. If you only try to date/see people you really like, even if they don’t like you back, the worst case is you’ll get hurt. And that needs to happen anyway.
- Pick a personal project and take it seriously. Like much of my life, where I’ve had a ton of ideas but not had the wherewithal to have seen them through, college was no different. At various times during school, I was in a band, had a solo music project, wanted to start a student magazine, was writing a book and 10 different short stories, working on a screenplay. And none of it came to serious fruition, because I didn’t really pick one thing (which should have been the band, obviously- so much potential) and focus on it.
So if you’re reading this and are still in school, the main takeaway point is DON’T BE LAZY. And think about what you want to do with yourself.
And if you’re looking at this, thinking about your own college experience, and telling yourself that hindsight sure is 20/20, well, the lesson you can still takeaway is DON’T BE LAZY. We’ve all got less time than ever.
Henry Goldman is the founder of yr an adult. He is still remarkably lazy.