The College Years, but Not Mine

Woodcarving demonstrations outside Cabela’s.

Brian and I finally made it to the lake for a weekend. Despite extensive planning back in April/May, we only made it to his family’s cottage a handful of times this summer.

This is mostly my fault since I don’t like to go up on the holiday weekends, which are generally the times when we both have an extra day or two off.

We spent Friday catching up with his family, playing guitar and singing some classic rock ‘n roll, and Saturday we took our planned, two-part, day-trip to the University of Toledo and Cabela’s.

Despite being friends throughout the college years, I never visited Toledo. I have wanted to visit for a while to see where the college years, which were not mine, took place. It was an interesting and somewhat boring drive to campus from Marblehead, not because of the company, but because of the scenery. I couldn’t make that drive a couple times a day for several years– I would go crazy. I need trees and hills, preferably in abundance.

The university was smaller than my alma mater, Kent State, which even now seems gigantic, but not daunting, to me. However, it felt older… more aged. I don’t know if that’s an accurate read, but I don’t know how else to describe it. The main building with its gothic gargoyles, stone clock tower and church-like entry way was quite impressive, and I can see why incoming students would be excited about wandering around the middle of campus, acclimating to being ‘in college.’

The trip was not at all what I imagined. I was hoping to gain some insight into what I consider the college years that weren’t mine, but all I came away with is that they won’t ever be mine. College is certainly a time for exploring, learning and growing, but it’s also an experience that is unique to the individual experiencing it. I’m glad I went away to college, and I’m even more pleased that I went far enough as to leave the country for part of it, but I hope it’s not a mystery to anyone how I came away from those experiences the way I did. I have no regrets about how I spent my time, I think I made practical decisions that have helped me achieve the successes I’ve enjoyed thus far, and I would say I really found myself through my college experience. My college years were an investment in my future– I worked hard at coursework, I held several jobs each semester, I joined lots of organizations, I met lots of people and I took time to learn a few things about myself.

What I can’t seem to come to terms with is the way others find themselves during the same four years. I try not to judge, but I do. I try not to think too hard about the things I could have been doing outside of clubs, classes, studying and staying on top of things. Maybe mine wasn’t the ‘true’ college experience. Regardless, it was nice to finally get a glimpse at a campus I had never seen, hear stories I’d never heard, and try to piece together how everything works together for good.

Leaving Toledo about noon, we headed north to Cabela’s. Somehow, in the midst of my chatting, I missed the ‘Welcome to Michigan’ sign, but I didn’t have much time for regret as we quickly pulled into Cabela’s. A destination in its own right, Cabela’s almost has something for everyone. We were there to purchase hunting gear, but I was still impressed with the statues outside, the Stihl-sponsored woodcarving demonstrations, the walk-through fish tanks and the taxidermy work throughout the store.

Mission complete, we grabbed lunch, stopped at a few more hunting/outdoor stores looking for ammo, and eventually headed back to the cottage exhausted and just in time to get our second wind before heading over to Mon Ami Winery to check out the band. As soon as we heard there was an hour and a half wait, we drove to Port Clinton and happened on the Harvest Festival, complete with food, beverage and band. The band, The Junk, was actually great, but the people watching was even better.

Sometimes things really do just work out.

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