Editor’s note: Holly Coletta is a former editor-in-chief who worked with Speakeasy for 4 years before graduating last spring. She’s also a close friend of a lot of folks on Speakeasy’s staff. Here’s some of her words of advice for the cool cats she left behind.
I don’t have hometown pride. Four years ago, I couldn’t wait to get out of my hometown. I know people who stayed, who are probably going to always stay. Some people are okay with living in a place where high school football reigns supreme all day, everyday; where there are more cows than people; where there is need for only one stoplight “downtown”; where rebelling on the weekends meant walking around Wal-Mart at midnight and giggling a lot in the candy aisle.
That’s not for me. College meant somewhere new. College meant I could learn (read: become a bigger nerd about) about what I loved (English, journalism, parentheses). College meant getting out.
And yet, four years later, and I was ready to get out of Athens, too.
Except now I’ve graduated and supposedly “moved on with my life” and all I’m seeing are “Can’t wait to get back to Athens!” “Woo, back to school!” “HALLOWEEN IS SO SOON YOU GUYS” in my social media news feeds and it’s making my waterproof mascara run and my heart hurt in ways it hasn’t hurt since the end of “Harry Potter.”
Every fall when I was at OU, I saw some sort of “advice for baby Bobcats” column and I was always like, “I will never write one of those. They’re so corny.”
Except now I’ve graduated and supposedly “moved on with my life” and here I am writing one.
My advice isn’t for baby Bobcats. You can tell freshmen all about how they need to get involved to experience Athens and appreciate their time here, but let’s get real – they’re not listening. They’re way too excited to get the hell out of MemAud and go try this magical “Donkey” they’ve heard about and show off their cool new lanyards and try their first sip of PBR even though AlcoholEdu said it could kill them.
My “advice” (read: sappy, weepy column) is for seniors.
Seniors get tired of OU. Not Athens, because no one could ever get tired of Athens, but they’re tired of school. They’re tired of 9 a.m.s. They’re tired of having to take some dumb English class because they need .3 credits to finish their English requirement. They’re tired of having to run from Bentley to Morton in 10 minutes. They’re tired of PowerPoints and “light” readings of 60 pages a night, per class. They’re tired of the effort. And they’re probably already tired of hearing about graduation.
But, seniors, even though you’re going to spend a lot of time doodling during class and counting down the days/minutes/seconds until Thirsty Thursday, it’s important to take a step back and enjoy it.
I don’t mean “enjoy the lasts.” I don’t mean “go to Stroud’s, break into the Ridges, try all the foods.” Like, cool if you made an Athens bucket list or whatever. I made one and did most of it. But enjoy this last time of just being an Athenian because holy mother of Jesus Christ God Almighty, you’re going to miss it. You’re going to miss it so bad.
You’re going to miss setting up a table on College Green and harassing freshmen to join your club (or sitting back and looking pretty while your best friends and admittedly better public speakers meow at freshmen to join your club). You’re going to miss running (or speedwalking) to Perk’s to grab delicious cheap coffee on your way to that god-awful early morning foreign language class.
You’re going to miss camping out in Alden for hours and “doing homework.” You’re going to miss meeting with your adviser and pretending like you understand your DARS even though it’s been 4 years and you still don’t know what the hell DARS even stands for.
You’re going to miss spending too much money on textbooks. You’re going to miss the class projects that make you lose sleep at night and/or binge on the entire series of “Arrested Development” in procrastination. You’re going to miss (hungover) brunch at the dining halls. And, goddammit, you’re even going to miss walking up Jeff and Morton hills.
Most of all, you’re going to miss the weekends.
You’re going to miss Homecoming, Halloween and fest season, because obviously, but you’re going to miss all the weekends in-between even more. You’re going to miss champagne slushies, black widows and hot nuts. You’re going to miss pregaming with your best friends (i.e. dancing around the kitchen to “Infinity Guitars” like a coupla fools in-between shots of Paramount chased with Red Bull). You’re going to miss shows at Casa, even if the cover charge is ridiculous and you spend too much money on too many shots for too many boys. You’re going to miss avoiding exes at house parties. You’re going to miss all the times you said, “I’m not drinking that much tonight” followed by empty bottles of moscato and mostly destroyed Big Mamma’s. You’re going to miss sitting on futons and playing Kings and panicking because you don’t know the names of enough Pokemon and you just know someone is going to choose Pokemon for categories.
You’re going to miss drinking gallons and gallons of water and/or almost OD’ing on ibuprofen on Sunday mornings. Just wait.
I miss all of those things and more. I miss the farmers’ market. I miss the squirrels. I miss counting the AP Style mistakes in the Post. I miss bathrooms.
It’s weird, but so much happened in bathrooms. I helped compose suave texts (“HE TEXTED ME WHAT SHOULD I DO?!?!” “TEXT HIM BACK.” “IS A WINKY FACE EMOTICON TOO FORWARD.”). I reevaluated the game plan (“We stick around for like 15 more minutes and then go to USD.”). I did shots (“Wow, plastic water bottles are really great for keeping Sailor Jerry’s nice and fresh.”). I hovered over toilets (“I might puke I might pu—never mind, Wings Over is at the door.”). I freaked out about girls (“She’s being a hashtag bitch”) and boys (“Wait what do you mean he said I was cute how is my hair why did I wear this stupid shirt”) and life (“WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE”).
I cried in the bathroom (a lot).
My advice isn’t “spend a lot of time in bathrooms,” or “party it up OU OH YEAH.” But if those things sound appealing to you, then do it. Do it surrounded by people you love in a place that’s just as great and long-lasting loveable as those cheesy freshman orientation videos promised you it would be. Just make sure you enjoy it.
Enjoy it when it’s week 13 and you’re beyond ready to get the hell out of Athens and back home to your friends and dog and free food. Enjoy it, because you won’t get to come back. Stay until closing time at Jackie O’s, because you won’t get to plan for afternoon beers. Buy a latte in between class, because you won’t get to bitch about the crappy baristas at Front Room. Take your best friend up on her offer to crash on her couch (for the third time that weekend), because she might sell the couch and move across the country someday soon. Go ahead and buy a round of shots, because you won’t get to look around at everybody like, “Who wants to do Irish Aspirins?!” without at least one non-OU alum looking at you like you’re an alcoholic. (Also because you’re going to be so postgrad poor so soon.)
That’s not to say postgrad life is the worst. Sure, it’s terrifying, sad and sort of lonely, but it’s also free, limitless and awesome. And I really shouldn’t complain – my next step in “what am I doing with my life” is moving an hour and a half away from Athens. That’ll make it tempting to run back – to run home – any time I get nostalgic (all the time), but I know I can’t.
Unfortunately, letting go is part of graduating. Sure, there are alumni events for a reason, but when I go back, it won’t be the same. I’ll do the postgrad bar shuffle, the necessary sight-seeing, but I’ll do it as an outsider, someone who’s been there, done (most of) that. Athens, Ohio will always have a place in my heart, but, as the prophet Celine Dion once said, my heart will go on.
I accept that I enjoyed my time as a Bobcat as much as I could. I just hope my friends won’t forget me and they’ll send lots of Snapchats on the weekends and that they’ll remember that vanilla Smirnoff always tastes better in Jello shots than regular Smirnoff.
So, graduating seniors (and juniors and sophomores and freshmen), enjoy it. Enjoy it, and prepare to join me and countless other alumni as you supposedly “move on with your life” in a quest to find a decent Life After Athens support group. And decent alcoholic beverages to serve at said support group. Obviously.