By Mariechen Puchert
CAPE TOWN, South Africa – I was 19 and had just completed my first year at university. I brought home top grades, but found that I simply could not relate to my classmates’ tales of self-discovery and rapturous journey through their first year away from high school.
One summer afternoon, my mom looked up quizzically and said, “You know, it’s okay to have some fun. It’s okay to sacrifice a few percentage points.”
My mom: the hardworking social worker who does a thankless job with more enthusiasm than I have ever seen. I know she had a wonderful time at university, hitchhiking and getting up to mischief.
Times are different now. Hitchhiking is more dangerous and the current definitions of “mischief” are often considered illegal, but I decided that day that I would not allow my years at university to be bound to a desk. You only have 10 years to experience your twenties, and not all of those will be careless college years.
The next year I traveled overseas for the first time, and I had to defer an exam to do so. In the time since, I’ve had numerous opportunities to lead, to experience, to participate in a society I barely knew existed.
I’ve met people I never would have met if I had become a mindless studying drone. I’ve experienced the nightlife and learned that one needn’t lose control or engage in illegal activities to enjoy it.
I’ve had to sacrifice some of those top marks, but in all honesty, I wouldn’t take back any of the experiences I got in exchange.
Although I never dyed my hair purple, I did get a nose piercing, and the process of considering the possible effects and side-effects and then deciding to go ahead with the plan was a massive personal growth spurt in itself.
These thoughts have a disclaimer: I am in no way encouraging irresponsible behavior.
As a student, your wellness must be at the forefront of your concern. Tertiary education is expensive and should you have the privilege of attending college, do not disregard the value it can add to your life.
However, it will be a shame if you leave college with no more than a degree to your name.