From time to time, Nate makes his way down to the good old Alma Mater, the University of Arizona. Last weekend was one of those times. It was graduation day, nonetheless. It is strange to be on the other side of the coin. Watching the future of America emerging from Main Gate is a scary thought when you hear phrases such as “he totally kicked his ass”coming out of the mouths of those in caps and gowns.
Not too long ago, Nate was one of these spirited individuals without care in the world except the details of last night’s party. While ass-kicking was not a part of his usual activities, there was something special about that season. All too quickly, life starts and many of the rituals that make college one of the most enjoyable and healthy seasons come to a halt.
For Nate, many of these adult transitions were subconscious. They were completely normal based on his now current circumstances. His life looked like those of many people around him. He must be doing something right. Not necessarily.
It wasn’t until life began to feel broken, purposeless, and frankly, miserable, that he consciously began to analyze what was missing. He found that many of the lifestyle choices inherent in the college life are absolutely crucial to a vibrant life. The fact that they are compartmentalized and reserved for those glorious five years is completely absurd.
While there may not be parties seven nights a week as reality sets in, there are still plenty of ways to re-integrate this lifestyle into adulthood.
Musing Number One - Happier people drive less: Without a car for much of the time in college, Nate was forced to walk, bike, or use the bus. By design, his life was limited to a small geographic area. He was in the best shape of his life and had more energy. Nate has found that cars come with far more costs than insurance and gas. Although driving may reduce travel time, the absence of a regular workout reduces energy, productivity and creativity, resulting in a net loss. By being intentional about geographic proximity to work, friends, church, and family, it is suddenly possible, even in Phoenix, to say no to the automobile more often.
Musing Number Two – Happier people have community: College is the epitome of social engagement. During college it was rare to eat dinner alone. Whether it was a deep conversation over quesadillas at Café Sonora or a group cram session that takes up more tables than is socially acceptable at the Grill during peak hours, fellowship was built in, easy, and frequent. There is less time to be sad or bored or lonely when these methods for engagement are available. Everybody hung out in everybody else's’ dorm room, and nobody cared how messy it was. Community simply happened. Working in a small office and living alone, Nate has to be extremely intentional about this musing. Luckily church has been a great catalyst, and is one reason why the Christian model of life is so fulfilling.
Note: This musing dovetails nicely with Number One. By living in a small area, it is likely to see the same people repeatedly and build relationships. Once solidified, it is convenient and accessible to have dinner with them for no reason at all. It isn’t as easy to meet people while driving around in a two ton metal box of solidarity.
Musing Number Three – Happier people take risks: In college, almost everything is a new experience. Therefore, there is an inherent amount of risk just to survive on a day to day basis. Trying new things and taking risks becomes a normal mode of operation that isn’t so scary after all. People go new places, try new activities, meet new people, eat new foods, all without batting an eye. Once graduation sets in, so do adult routines which can be rather mundane. Are the obvious mundane routines such as jobs only supporting more mundane “stuff “ that in turn restrict time and resources to create new experiences? In college, there was no room and no money for “stuff”, but there was an abundance of an even greater commodity: time. By living a minimal life, there are far fewer obligations required to support the mundane, resulting in more space to live a riskier life. The only difference in adult life may be the lack of a massive hangover.