Finishing College, Among Other Things

DCU Campus entrance
Sean Creagh

7th of March 2022

The writing of this article stems from a moment I had last week driving home from college. Sometimes if I am tight for time, I skip plugging the aux cable into my phone and tune straight into the radio. It’s a lottery, really – sometimes you can find an absolute belter; other times, it’s just the nails-on-a-chalkboard screeching of Shivers by Ed Sheeran.

Regardless, on this day, FM104 played the iconic King Kunta by Kendrick Lamar across its airwaves. Turning the volume up, the bass of the car speakers bounced to the ebbs and flows of the melody, transporting me back to a time that no longer existed.

That time was 2018, the year I started college in DCU – a period when I listened to this song a lot. And I mean a lot, a lot. I played the song so much I think my heartbeat manually adjusted itself to the pentameter of the beat after a certain point. Simply hearing it again had unlocked a whole host of memories and people I had not thought about for a long time – and this made me somewhat nostalgic for an era that was not even that far behind me.

That feeling was bizarre. It is almost as if the world before Covid-19 and the one I now occupied existed in entirely different dimensions, totally disconnected. Today, with most of my college degree now behind me, my distanced perspective has made me revise events that happened long ago with a new kind of maturity – and this made me recoil slightly. With today’s knowledge, the thought of having to relive yesterday’s comings and goings can often be a wincing and painful experience.

But the truth is unflinching for all its beauties and flaws. Maybe there are subconscious barriers to why we are not always totally honest with ourselves. There is the danger of being left feeling exposed, or even ashamed, at how imperfect we have acted in the past and how that may come across. There is also the temptation to be disingenuous and colour events in ways favourable to us – overestimating the interest one’s experiences holds for others with selective lapses of memory.

But honesty is crucial when examining the past. If you wish to establish the truth about yourself, you should be willing to take accountability for your actions. In saying that, contemplating on the last four years, I wouldn’t change much. For all the highs I chased that no longer mattered, or lows of not getting it quite right, there is a certain level of comfort in accepting that life is messy, and no perfect time will ever truly exist.

If I were to advise my previous self, or some other person just starting college, I would probably remind them of what is and isn’t essential. While I have not fully finished processing the last number of years (and likely won’t for some time yet), I can tell them with a certain degree of confidence that sweating the small stuff is almost always a waste of your finite energy. If it doesn’t matter in five years, then you shouldn’t worry about it for more than five minutes.

I’d also remind them to take risks out of their comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to sign-up for an unusual society, start a social media profile, or ask the girl out. You’ll thank yourself for it and better understand your strengths and limitations. Your college experience should be about getting an academic degree, as it is learning to grow as a person and redefining who you once were to be a better-crafted version.

Finally, I think kindness goes a long way. From the frequent nod of acknowledgement to your passer-by to holding the door open for someone, these small acts of generosity tend to have a boomerang effect – where it spins back and returns to you when you least expect it, helping during those moments when you need it. Strong relationships will be the key to your happiness and why you return to campus every day; the laughs you have are much more memorable than any lecture content.

Reflecting on all those years gone by now, I know one of these days will be my last walk down the excessively long avenue from the Ballymun entrance. Staring up at the tall elder trees whose long branches hang overhead, having watched their leaves turn from green to yellow to bald, to green again – I know this place belongs to somebody else now.

But that’s okay. Turning the dial once more, a new song comes on the radio.



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This article was supported by: Engagement Coordinator Aislin


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