Originally published on Odyssey Online (2015) by Evan McKenna
There comes a time in a college boy’s life when the rowdy, frivolous idiot inside him dies.
Often, though not always, it is the end of freshman year.
Some call it the period of realization. And it is when a boy realizes that he should no longer be proud of his binge drinking habit, but embarrassed. When he sees that skipping class and squandering money is no longer funny, but foolish.
Following these realizations, (along with many others, each similar,) he makes five personal changes before his next semester.
1) He sacrifices fun for hard work—and he likes it.
A boy starts prioritizing. He has developed willpower and understands that writing his essay an hour before class is a worse idea than electing Herbert Hoover for president. This U.S. history joke is not esoteric to him, because lately, he has put down the video games and social medium to properly complete the history assignments assigned by his academic instructor.
2) He cleans his reputation.
He removes all online photos of himself passed out in snow banks, especially the ones in which he holds a handle of cherry Rubinoff. He combs through all social media platforms—including his YouTube account from seventh grade—and deletes both the comments and memes that poorly represent his new and improved character. He doesn’t do this to look good for potential employers; he does this because he is pivoting into adulthood.
3) He watches his mouth.
He has omitted derogatory terms from his lexicon. He understands that it is 2015, and he does not use offensive words that refer to race, nationality, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, sex, or physical and mental disability. If he slips up, he apologizes to those around him–whether they care or not—and takes initiative to not let it happen again. He doesn’t do this to be politically correct; he does this because he understands the importance of human equality. Nevertheless, he does not hesitate to scream “fuck,” when he stubs his toe on the corner of his aunt’s coffee table. He understands that this particular pain inevitably results in profanity and therefore does not merit an apology.
4) He is honest and admits to his mistakes.
No matter how embarrassing or shameful, he admits to his wrongdoings. He understands that lying only exacerbates his problems, and that he must always exhibit his respect for others by telling them the truth. (Yes, even if he had one too many drinks at his high school reunion and pissed on the bathroom floor. As a responsible adult, he seeks the custodians and acquires the tools necessary to remove the biohazard he created.)
5) He listens to others.
Whether it’s politics, religion, or why cookie dough is better than other ice cream flavors, he listens closely to his fellow’s opinion, especially when his fellow’s opinion contrasts with his. He understands that he is entitled to his own opinion, but that his opinion should always be both substantiated and delivered in a tone considerate to his opposing view. Most importantly, his goal is not to prove his fellow wrong; it is to investigate the objective truths in human knowledge. No matter how ignorant Uncle Kevin is being, he endures the cringe-inducing, close-minded rant and waits his turn to reply in a productive, thoughtful manner.
The college boy’s initiation into adulthood is more than just ironing shirts, curbing procrastination, and daily flossing. The boy who walked on campus eager to find drugs now focuses on his future, with hardly any time for fun. But that’s OK with him, because he is a new person now—a person who will take on his desired career with the demeanor required for success. With his matching socks and daily showers, he is proud of what he has become, and he looks forward to completing all objectives in his path.