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All I Really Need to Know I Learned in College

By Beth Andersen
July 1st, 2002

All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in college. Wisdom was not at the top of the university mountain, but there in the early morning light in the gutter at the bottom of that mountain. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.  Use the campus computers to download bootleg music to burn onto CDs for all your friends.

* Play quarters. Sure it seems meaningless and juvenile, but that's only for the first round or two.

* Don't hit ... more than once per rotation:  wait your turn.

* Put things back where you found them. If you went to a house party and picked up someone for the night then the next morning, be kind enough to drive them back to the curb in front of that same house ... or at least to a bus stop nearby.

* Clean up your own mess ... or at least shove it under your bunk until the end of the semester.

* Don't take things that aren't yours or, as we like to say in college, "don't take any shit from anybody."

* Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody. Or, if that "hurt" happens to be because the two of you got down in a drunken stupor the night before, just cross the street and look the other way as if they were a complete stranger to you.

* Wash your hands before you come home from Cancun.

* Flush the toilet, and all suspect substances -- if you hear sirens outside the front door.

* Warm cookies and milk are good for you. That's why you can eat as many as you want on the campus dining plan and bill them to your parents. And don't mind that extra flab ... it's just the 'freshman fifteen' ... everyone expects you to gain it: it's just part of the college experience.

* Live a balanced life -- learn a little and think a little and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day a little. Then drink shots all night, puke in the morning and do it all again!

* Take a nap every afternoon ... that's when you will be sitting through your most boring classes.

* When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together ... then begin singing boisterously, "Show me the way to go home!" or "Hey, Hey, we're the Monkeys!" Sure, it might seem a little strange, but it's a ritual that every college freshman must go though. Just means that it's closing time.

* Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seeds in the yogurt carton: The paper burns down and the smoke goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we all like it.

* Cats and hamsters and white mice and even the little seeds in the yogurt carton -- they all grow up and reproduce and have to care for their offspring until they die. So do we. Some of us may even have to graduate and get a job. You see, it's called 'real life.' If possible, try not to think about it for now.

* And then remember reading your first letter from the college financial aid office and the first word you learned -- the biggest of all -- DEBT.

Yes, those student loans are going to come due sooner than you think.  The good news is that after graduation you can get a job and sit in a cubicle taking all that shit you refused to take in college.

But don't let that detract from those four (or more!) glorious years.  Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule (NEVER spill the beer) and love and basic contraception. Ecology (grow your own) and politics (legalize it!) and equality (waiting our turns in long keg lines) and sane living (surviving the inevitable roommate-from-hell.)

Take one of these items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your assigned reading along with a good dose of BS. There! You've just written your first college essay!

Think what a better world it would be if we all -- the whole world -- played like this totally mega-huge, lollapalooza F'ing game of quarters and then lay down with one of our classmates for a nap. Or if all governments had a basic policy to always look the other way and pretend like they didn't know each other the day after they did something really embarrassing together.

And it is still true, no matter how old you are -- when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together and sing "Hey hey we're the Monkeys!" as loudly as possible.

Copyright 2002 B. Andersen, apologies to Mr. Fulghum (who learned everything he needed to know in kindergarten ... right, sure, as if he never went to college)


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