The Best Years

Today I am many miles away from home, dropping my “baby” off at college.  Thirty years ago, I was in his shoes.  Although I was wearing knock-off Docksiders and he’ll be wearing something much more hip, I’m sure.  And I was not nearly as far away!

I don’t remember what I was thinking or feeling that day.  Probably a mix of nervousness and excitement.  Which is, coincidentally, a bit of what I will be feeling as a parent, I suspect.

Back in my day, the era of typewriters and record players and payphones and high-waisted jeans, college was heralded as “the best years of your life.”  But for me, they were not.  Looking back now, I know I did not choose a good school for myself.  And I was shy, with no self-confidence.  And, yes, it was then that I began my long struggle with yo-yo dieting.  Not that it was a horrible four years, mind you.  I had some fun times.  I made some great friends.  I earned a degree, albeit it impractical.  But for me, the best years of my life came later.

Oh if only I’d known then what I know now.  If only my son was receptive to the wisdom of my years and experience.  But alas, teens are teens and in their minds, so much smarter than any parent could ever be.  I am sure I felt the same way, at his age.

I hope that the next four years ARE the best years of my son’s life.  For now.  While they are happening.  Filled with adventure and fun and learning and growth.  But I hope that the years that follow are even better.  I hope the best year is always the year he is living.  And I hope he lives it to HIS best.

When were the best years of your life? 

Any advice for my son as he embarks on his college career? 

What do you miss, or NOT miss, from the 80s?

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51 Comments

Filed under history (my past)

51 responses to “The Best Years

  1. Ha, I’ two years out of university, and life just keeps getting better and better… not that it was bad before, but I wouldn’t set the clock back if I could. Enjoying myself way too much for that. ^^

  2. I have more fond memories of HS than of college. Like you I came of age in the 80’s but I loved it! The big hair, the music and even the crazy fashions! My advice for your son *and I have one in college myself right now) is to balance fun with buckling down. You can do both. Be involved because everything you learn is applicable to some real life lesson you’ll need. Oh and go Greek! Hope his next 4 years are great ones!

  3. I must say until now- college was THE BEST time of my life! So carefree, so fun, so exciting. Full of friends, laughter and naps! I really am liking my 40’s though- so when I am 60 and you ask the same question I am not sure which time I will look at more fondly! 🙂
    Advice- enjoy every moment!

  4. I was between six and sixteen years old during the 80s; so, there was a lot of change going on in my life. The thing that stands out the most as just plain stupid are the great big butterfly and banana clips for hair (it SHOCKS me just how many women you see still wearing those awful banana clips) and collars turned up instead of turned down properly.

    I’m so glad to see you write that you hope these are the best years of his life… for now. It would be quite sad to go through an entire lifetime and have the four years of college be the best of your life.

    The best years of my life are now. And I hope it continues to get better.

    And my advice to your son as an academic: grades do matter… very very much. Have fun, but know that the purpose of being there is to expand your mind, learn how to think critically, and learn how to write well. We see all too many people entering law school with poor writing skills. Sandra Day O’Connor once stated, “I don’t know that there are any short cuts to doing a good job.” So true.

    • Karen

      I hope he hears that grades matter enough to give him motivation to study hard. He sailed through HS with great grades but little studying and I worry he is not well prepared. I’m happy to report that even though he is in the engineering school, they do put an emphasis on writing. And the college dean just spoke at convocation about all kinds of literacy. You’d have appreciated it:)

  5. For me, with the exception of a really tough year thrown in here and there, the best year of my life truly has always been the one in which I’m currently living. And I’m so thankful to feel that way. One can look back on the intermittent “tough” years and in the whole scheme of things, realize you made it through and hopefully in the process, learned a little and grew a LOT!!

    College was not my best time either, but I have to remember that it is where I found Mr. B, so it must’ve been where I was meant to be even if I didn’t see it that way at the time.

  6. Hi Karen! Well, I also had a very unconfident shy time at college. I had friends who didn’t care about me that much. I felt so alone at college until I got married.

    But we did NOT pass that onto our children. The difference is how close you and I are to our kids. None of my kids feel unsupported or friendless at college ever. I have told them to dump friends who treat them badly, but they knew that ahead of time, so they picked good friends in the first place.

    It is MUCH more satisfying to go to college when Mom is your biggest fan who is cheering for you –all of the time. That is a gift they don’t realize they have.

    🙂 Marion

  7. Sable@SquatLikeALady

    Good luck to your son! With such a wise mother, I’m sure he’ll make the best choices he can and — more importantly — learn from his mistakes and experiences.

    And now you’ve sparked my curiousity something fierce so…what did you get your degree in? (If you’re wondering, I can’t stand when people leave out just one single piece of information. It’s the avid reader in me, I guess!)

    • Karen

      Sorry:) I got a degree in psychology but knew I did not want to go on to get an advanced degree or work in the field. My dad was right – I should have majored in business or computers. So I picked up a business minor and then went on to grad school where I got my MBA. And met my husband:) Of course, not having worked in over a decade, now I use none of my degrees!

  8. Hi My university years were the best years of my life – or maybe the baby years …its a close decision! I loved them both
    I’m feeling like I am emerging into a new best years feeling happier and more confident than I have in a very long time.
    High waisted jeans are coming back “in” in the UK, my 14yr old has a pair of high waisted jeans and a pair of high waisted shorts. Everything comes round again if you wait long enough – except those old fat clothes..they are NEVER coming back. My advice to your son is to recognise the fact he is living days that will become memories. When you are young you don’t see it and once it is gone it is gone. Live the happy days and know that you are living them.
    Dawn
    Dawn

    • Karen

      Poor guy – I kept taking pictures. Some day he’ll maybe appreciate those:) I through out my leggings ages ago… the next year they were back in style!

  9. Jan

    The best years of my life… College was just a stepping stone to medical school. Work, study (and not that hard), queasy feelings about sexuality – not the best time. Medical school – study (it wasn’t hard, just long), drank too much (never drank before), learn to swear, try to stuff down emotions about death. Nah, not the best years. Residency – horrid, started bingeing at that time with massive weight gain. I could go on, but NOW is probably the best time of my life even though I have given up fast cars and city life. (That’s what vacation car rentals and travel are for!) I am healthy – except for this surgery thingy – have the love of my life, value family more than ever, and have the wisdom of 50+ years to realize that Will Rogers was right when he said, “Things ain’t what they used to be and probably never was.”

    Tell your son to study as hard as he needs to get where he wants for the next phase in his life, whether that be graduate school or a job immediately afterward. Have tons of fun but do some humanitarian activities while he has the time and energy. Explore all his university has to offer. And use condoms!

    Silly blogging friend – you think I went to college in the 80’s?(insert a loud snort). I was in residency and fellowship for 5 years then a new faculty member just learning to be a real physician. It was all pretty horrible, just like the hair and music from that era.

    • Karen

      LOL – I just read in his school paper they have a condom bowl in the dorms:) Your life now sounds wonderful… not counting the whole cancer thing, of course. I thought of you a lot today driving through your state!!

  10. MO

    Wow – College – where will I be when my 10 year old is finally going off to College? Oh, I can’t think about that right now!! So glad that you are getting to take your own son up to college, get him all settled and then say your good-byes.

    My college years – the BEST!!! The late 80’s Mer was my roommate and we are still the best of friends. And to think that our first phone call to each other ended with both hanging up and saying to ourselves – “it will never work out”…go figure. I sure hope your son can bond with many that will be lifetime friends!!!

    The best advice I can give your son is this – embrace all that is new, learn from your mistakes and enjoy every moment. Take it all in or just observe from the sidelines, but still keep your focus on your studies (that is what you are going to college for, right)? Attend your classes and learn the most from those creative professors!!!

    Staying MOtivated MO

    • Karen

      How cool that you met in college and are still so close! I wish we’d had facebook and the internet back in my day so I could have stayed connected. I am still in touch with my freshman roommate, but only with Christmas cards and rare emails since we live half way across the country from each other. I got lucky with her being my roomie.

  11. First of all, I LOVE that picture of you!! I hope your son remembers to enjoy every minute of this part of his life. It’s a weird, wonderful kind of life that will never come again. Especially living away at a dorm environment. We never live in a communal situation like that again. With no other responsibilities,like a family of our own… I hope he makes friends he’ll have for life and I hope he takes a few classes he never thought he would and finds them interesting.
    For me, my best years are right now. I only just “woke up.”

    • Karen

      I HATE that photo of me! My hair growing out and wild, my strange pose. Prepped out, sort of. Oh well, I’m owning it decades later. I do miss the part about not having real world responsibilities.

  12. The best years of my life have been as an adult. I have a great life snd try to never take it for granted.

    Sure I have sone advice for your son, but remember I teach kn a college:
    1. Travel abroad. Nothing impacts a college student like travel abroad. If at all possible go to a developing country.

    2. Stretch yourself out of your comfort zone by making friends with a diverse group of people from different cultures, races and backgrounds.

    3. Find out who the best profs (ask other students but also other profs who their Favs are) on campus and make sure to take classes from them, no natter what you major in.

    4. Profs are people too. They love getting to know their students snd building relationships. ask them about how they got kn their field or about their family. Share stuff about yourself, too.

    5. Talk to your mom often.

    6. Get in study groups.

    7. Ask a thoughtful question often in your classes.

    8. Crack jokes. People can be WAY too serious at college.

    Enjoy and be present!

    Be present. This 4 years is over before you know it.

    • Karen

      I’ll have to email those tips to him. Great ones:) He does hope to study abroad; it was something we looked at when considering schools. Can be tough with an engineering degree though.

  13. Karen,. I keep forgetting – THURSDAY! 😉 Menopause memory loss?? I will use it as much as I can! 😉

    Well, I was not a fan of college & chose a career based on what I thought I could make a living at. Although I went to a “party school”, it was not for me. It was ll work & not a lot of play. I went to classes, worked while I was in school & studied. Yes, I had some fun but in general, it was not my fondest years. I don’t even know what the best years of my life were.. maybe they are yet still to come…

  14. I clicked on your picture to enlarge it. You know what strikes me? You said you were shy, lacked confidence–yet you were beautiful. Great hair, lovely features, perfect weight. And yet…

    It makes me think that it may just be true, what they say… That it’s not really about the weight, or the looks.

    Okay. Advice for your son. hahaha. You may not have meant that as literally as I’m about to give it to you, but I’ve made this speech to college freshman a number of times. You’d be amazed at how well it works for them. It goes like this:

    “You have been told at some point during this orientation process that 2 out of every 3 freshman will flunk or drop out their first year. If you do what I’m about to tell you to do, you will not be one of them.”

    “With rare exception, I can guarantee that you’ll make at least a “C”, in all of your freshman courses simply by following these thre simple rules.”

    ” 1. Go to class 2. Keep up with the reading 3. Do assignments as assigned.”

    “Here’s the longer version. 1. Go to every class–do not skip any, no matter what–and be on time. Look interested while you’re there. Sit up straight. Don’t play with your phone. Take good notes. 2. Read all assigned material before you get to class. All. As it is scheduled on your syllabus. 3. Do every assignment, following the exact directions given. (If the prof says to double space, then double space.) And turn it in on time. Clean and food/wrinkle free.”

    “For some classes, those rules alone (got to class, read, do assignments) will get you a B, but i can’t guarantee that–I can guarantee at least a “C”.

    “For a guaranteed “B” you need to add a concerted effort to figure out exactly what the prof wants and is trying to accomplish, then show him that you get it. Then, add time to study for exams and class participation.”

    “For an “A”–All of the above plus diligence and determination. Begin studying for tests at least 3 days in advance of the test–not the night before.”

    “A study tip. When eye-time is limited, record your class notes on whatever audio device works for you and listen to it while you’re walking or driving or doing othr mindless chores. Do not record classes in real time, read the notes you took. Especially record lists of items you must memorize, repeat the list several times on the device so that you can hear it over and over without resetting. You’ll be surprised how much you will retain.”

    Advice ended.

    I know your son is an excellent student and certainly wants to get more than a “C”, but that foundational guarantee often eases beginning of school jitters. 🙂

    Incidentally, followng the above got me three degrees (BS, MS, MSW), more than a dozen 4.0 semesters, and several awards,including “Outstanding Woman Graduate”. So, I can pretty much say it’s been tried and proven. 😀

    Deb

    • Karen

      Thank you for that advice, Deb. I will pass it on if he isn’t reading along. Sometimes I think it is not a good thing that he is so smart; he cruised through school and rarely studied so I am afraid he might be in for a shock. Especially since he is at a school with all other very smart kids. I could write a whole long post, many maybe, on my lack of confidence growing up. Why, etc. But I think confidence comes from within and has nothing to do with looks and weight. It is exuded, if that makes sense.

  15. KLA

    Same here. I should have gone to a smaller school and university was not the best years of my life, those came later when I started working, gaining real independence in my life.

    I do not miss the hair or clothes from the 80s, but I do miss the music: New Order, The Cure, Depeche Mode and the Psychedelic Furs.

  16. I LOVE that picture of your cute young self – which I personally think you still are today! I think I went to the right school for myself at the time, though it became the place where my alcoholism began to grow and flower. There was a good bit of that and other substances that shall remain nameless with which I became acquainted in those days.

    My best years definitely came later – and other than this food thing, continue now. Let me amend that…even with this food thing, the best years continue now. I feel ridiculously blessed and lucky with kids, career, friends, and life in general. Not too shabby for an old broad! 🙂

  17. This must be bittersweet for you. I worked part time and went to school part time, but if I could have a do-over I would totally go away to college and have that experience. I hope he’s open to all the experiences that await him. And personally, I think every decade gets even better. My twenties may have been more ‘fun’, but my forties have been so rewarding. I hope he has a great time in school.

  18. Poignant.

    Dropping off your boy who will hopefully become a man! LOL Luckily you have a good track record with Son A.

    I went to college alone, younger than most everyone else and with an unclear understanding of what would be expected. Wild yet green. I can barely believe I made it through! Your son has only to deal with being green. A lovely state I might add!

    I think you are wearing my top side knock offs in that pic.

    The 80’s? I do not miss shoulder pads and parachute pants.
    My 80’s? I miss having a rock hard body and assuming it would always be that way. I do not miss being poor and being uncertain about shelter.

    I enjoy considering what it must feel like to have parents drop you off at school and care about what your future holds. Lucky parents and child really.

    • Karen

      My boys are so different from each other, as number two would be quick to tell you. But then, they chose very different schools. I think both made great picks for themselves. Shoulder pads. What were we thinking?

  19. Unfortunately, my 20’s were NOT the best years of my life. There was a lot of heartache and I was obese. I was depressed and unhappy and ate my feelings. I feel like the last few years have been the best of my life because I am fit and healthy!

  20. I don’t really have “best years”. I can find something wonderful in all of them, even if I have to really concentrate to do that with a couple of periods of my life. 🙂

    Advice to your son:
    Daily flossing is one of the best investments you can make in your future. It’s as important as whatever you study. (Unless you want to pledge a percentage of future earnings to some faceless periodontist in the future.)

  21. I really feel like now is among the best years of my life. I’m fit, healthy and self-confident. I love my job, am comfortable financially, and have good friends. Other times were good too – but I wouldn’t pick college as one of the best times–too much stress, pressure and roommate drama!

    I was in HS and college in the 80s. Like others, I don’t miss the fashion (or my curling iron!) but I do miss the music, including everything KLA mentioned! Just add Billy Idol and Adam Ant – I had their posters on my wall (do kids even do that these days? mine didn’t).

  22. I, too, would love to tell my past self a thing or two. There were a few things that I really wish I’d have known earlier. But, I’m not sure I would have listened. I remember people telling me some of these things at the time, but I was just not ready to listen to them. Sometimes you actually have to live through it to learn. But that’s probably part of the fun, there is a huge difference between hearing someone talk about something and experiencing it for yourself.

  23. College definitely was not the best days of my life (and it’s only been 4 years since then). The time since then has been better. I as a lot more shy and insecure in college.

  24. Oh wow – college was crazy for me – but I was always good at school, so I don’t think I ever questioned it. It was all the other LIVING stuff that I was totally unprepared for. Best years? I do believe they are now 🙂

  25. “When were the best years of your life?”

    Right this minute 🙂

    Like you, I was not a confident college student…I don’t regret anything, but at the same time I wish I had taken more advantage of that time of my life.

    “Any advice for my son as he embarks on his college career?”

    Trust that you have everything you need, right inside yourself.

    “What do you miss, or NOT miss, from the 80s?”

    I miss the music and the dancing!

  26. Best years of my life I think were when I first got married- but overall I think I have many more to come 🙂

    Advice I’d give is to study ALONE at the library- when I studied with friends and at home I didn’t get much done- but a quiet library with nothing but me and my books made me get a LOT done 🙂

    I miss and don’t miss the clothes and hair lol. It was fun at the time but now I’m like WOAH what the heck was I wearing?!

  27. The best years of my life are now. I have a great husband, am healthy, thin, and fit..never had that before.

  28. I could seriously write a short essay on all of the responses I have for this post, Karen. What do I miss about the eighties? Phil Collins in his prime, boat shoes and big hair.
    As for college, I feel exactly the same way about my years there as you do. Not the school for me, but I followed a boy there (stupid, stupid). And I didn’t really allow myself the ‘college experience’ because I was stuck in the art department from dusk till dawn working on projects.
    Missing out on dorm life is the one thing some of my friends say they wished they’d experienced. I suppose I’d say to enjoy living in a dorm for a while before heading out to live off campus. It really is an experience he’ll never regret.

    • Karen

      I am a Phil fan too:) And I agree about dorm living. It is part of the whole experience. He is in one now…. but at is school many of the kids move off campus after freshman year so we’ll see what happens next.

  29. The best years of my life are happening right now. Although I wish I hadn’t ‘hated’ myself when I was younger and whole my life ahead of me I have a hard time regretting things because they make me who I am today. But, by far, I am happier, healthier, saner, and wiser than I’ve ever been.

    One thing I would recommend for someone just entering college is to try not to take life too seriously. I was on the Dean and/or Chancellor’s List during college getting a 4.0…but I didn’t have a lot of fun. I regret not letting my hair down and enjoying being ‘young’. When applying for jobs most employers seem just as happy with a 3.0 as they do a 4.0. Not that I would have wanted my grades to slip…but I would have been netter off with more life experiences and an opportunity to find myself.

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