First of all, right off the bat, I just wanted to say that there is nothing wrong with the saying “They were right, college was the 4 best years of my life” or any other saying related to that idea. Yesterday was exactly one year since I graduated from university and seeing all of the pictures of everyone’s caps and gowns really brought me back. But those short sayings about college being the best 4 years (or 5 for those super seniors) really struck me and I got to thinking.

I was taught a while ago that in this moment there is nothing, no past, no future, it is perfect…nothing to fix or change. From nothing, I can create – anything. And then I thought back to my experiences at school. Many were up, many were down. But then I thought about the whole entire idea and started to ask some serious questions.

Were those really the best years of my life? Am I totally screwed if they were?

And I know what people are thinking when they say, “Soak it in now, these years will fly by fast and the college ones are the best of them.” But really? Seriously? Don’t get me wrong, college was fun – but out of everything it was a learning experience. It was a gigantic game of paddle ball. Try something, almost get an automatic result, and since I hadn’t tried it before…often of times the consequences were…dicey. Drinking, partying, college classes, group projects, friends, friends getting into trouble, yourself getting into trouble, the opposite sex, major life events…the list goes on and on.

What makes people think back and say that those were the best?

College is a time of finding out what you love and what you are passionate about. You get chances to take classes and meet people who are new and interesting. You get opportunities to mingle with alumni and teachers and really gain some wisdom, if your ears are open at least. You can pretty much make decisions for yourself and lead the life that you want to. But college was no joke. Major emotional turmoil, carrying friends home who were blacked out or strung out, horrible gossip, sorority and fraternity cliques and eruptions after a sister or brother crossed the line with another’s crush or love interest. Drugs. Alcohol. Reckless sex. General cluelessness. Overeating. Eating disorders. Back stabbing. Pain. Anguish. The best years? Are these the best? How do you even define the best?

They were fun years. But now speaking for myself, I never thought that they were going to be the best years out of my entire life. I knew that I had to go through those years to truly understand the importance of what my vision was – without knowing the darkness you can never appreciate the light. I knew that with empathy and compassion for other people, I could help them through whatever bad things happened during those years. But college for me was a period of time where I shut my mouth and listened to what was going on around me. So I did…and I learned some pretty interesting things.

But here’s really what I wanted to talk about today. Aristotle once said that “we are what we repeatedly do.” I believe this is true and I also believe that we become what we think about. I understand why people think that the college years were the best ones…you don’t have to go to a 9 – 5 job, pay the bills, have major responsibilities etc…but why can’t the rest of your life be the best of your life? Why can’t you take what you learned from that time and build upon it as a foundation rather than seeing the rest of your life as a denouement  to your story. I know I’m not. I want to make every year better than the last. In fact, I want every day to be better than the last. Sure there will be some terrible things that happen and it might knock you down, but each and every day you have an opportunity to really turn it around and change your world. I know this to be the truth.

So to all those college graduates out there: don’t settle. They were great years of your life, but they weren’t the best. The best ones  come in the 60+ years ahead of you. They will be the best years of  your life if you live them. Yeah, you might have to grind it out for a while doing a job you don’t really like, but if you find what you are passionate about in this world, and work on that when you get home from your other job, soon enough you will be able to create things you never imagined you could. Passion ignites your soul.

Evan Sanders
The Better Man Project