There were a hundred things I didn’t do in college because I was too afraid or embarrassed. Can you believe I didn’t go on one single spring vacation? I spent them all at home catching up on schoolwork, reading The Scarlet Letter and writing essays.
Lucille Ball said something along the lines of “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.” Looking back on college, there’s a lot I regret not doing, and as dumb as it sounds, I most regret not dancing at the president’s balls or the semi-formals or even in my car or shower or kitchen.
I remember attending my very last formal at NGU in October of 2019, and I got all dressed up in a blue cocktail dress I’d spent fifty dollars on that I never wore again. Was it worth the money? Sure––if only I’d jammed to the music in it. But my boyfriend, Bryson, and I stayed on the side-lines, even after my best friend quite literally tried dragging me to the dance floor. Every time “Sweet Caroline” played through the speakers, I wanted to swing to it but wouldn’t risk the embarrassment I’d bring upon myself.
Here’s what NOT to do in college: sit out the good songs. Or sit out anything, really.
Bryson and I went to a university Valentine’s semi-formal the night before Valentine’s Day. And the funny thing is that I danced to every single song the DJ played, slow or fast, rap or country, songs I hated or songs I loved.
I danced with Bryson in the center of the party, arms in the air, shouting lyrics I didn’t know and hoping nobody could hear, and jumping up and down in heels that left my feet sore and blistered.
But I danced, and I finally got to wear that red dress I bought two and a half years ago, and I made myself wait until after I graduated college to do all the things I’d wanted to do since I was an eighteen-year-old freshman.
When I went to those kinds of dances as a college student, I always envied the fun everyone must be having once the girls took off their shoes and the boys rolled up their sleeves.
Again, here’s what not to do in college:
Wait for anything, or give up, or reject following your friend to the dance floor, because no one will truly experience ‘fun’ until you’ve been to a semi-formal with six fraternities.
See, I have an unexplainable adoration for Ferris wheels, though I’m always a little bit afraid to get onto the pod that’ll circle me to the top. But I do it anyway, and I’ve recently learned that people do crazy things for a good view.
So here’s what to do in college:
Hop onto a canoe with three people you don’t really know so they can row you across a dangerously choppy, shark-infested current between islands.
Get a little assertive if someone takes your spot in the front row of a concert.
Walk into a newspaper office and pester the editor until he gives you a job.
Leap into a Cessna 172 with a 23-year-old pilot who drinks too much alcohol.
These are the things I don’t regret doing in college (though I probably should) and the few things I want to recall when I’m about to do something rather brave this year.
A small step toward achieving the joy of living as a freelancer in the awkward gap between college and the real world?
Dance in your car and shower and kitchen.
And always, always ride the Ferris wheel.
M.M. Cochran is a YA writer and author of Between the Ocean and the Stars (summer 2022). With an educational background in English and creative writing, she has worked in the journalism industry, as well as the agenting and publishing industry, and she is currently a freelance book editor for her service, Elegant Editing. Now pursuing a career in publishing and becoming a full-time novelist, she spends most of her time editing and writing in her novels. Meanwhile, you can find M.M. collecting coffee mugs or slipping into an oversized sweater, wishing for a white winter.