Michelle Lefrançois is a math education master’s student at Teachers College at Columbia University. She is originally from Washington, D.C. and attended the University of Vermont for her undergraduate experience. She lived in Rouen, France for the past year, teaching English in a local high school.
Senior year of college is an interesting time, and varies greatly depending on who you are. Some people spend the whole year preparing for their post-college life, while others drink themselves into a stupor and wait until the day after graduation to decide what they hope to do. It’s a time of change and a time of discovery, and is supposed to be one of the most exciting and fun times of your life. My senior year, however, will be forever marked by a certain soul-crushing event that changed the course of my final months in college, as well as the course of my personal life.
I attended the University of Vermont, and while I will always have a soft spot for Burlington, I was ready to leave by the time I hit senior year. The winters were weighing on me, and I had just spent the summer taking 15 credits that had me burned out before the school year had even begun. I was ready for the next chapter of my life, whatever that was going to be. For reasons that I won’t get into, my boyfriend of two-plus years was living in Chicago for the year. I was on top of my credits and was able to arrange my schedule so that I had 4-day weekends. My original plan was to use that time to visit Chicago fairly frequently, not only to see my boyfriend, but to get out of Vermont for a bit. Little did I know that on the first day of classes, I was going to get dumped. Hard.
Even in retrospect, I have no idea why it happened. There was no possible way that I could have seen it coming. All I got was an, “I love you, but I’m not in love with you anymore,” and that was it. He wasn’t sorry, and he was sure. Naturally, I sobbed and ate excessive amounts of Ben and Jerry’s in the immediate aftermath. However, I made two decisions for which I thank myself every single day. The first happened almost immediately after I hung up the phone. I put every picture of him, everything he had ever given me, and everything that reminded me of him into a box and gave it to my roommate. I asked her to put it somewhere where I would never find it. Months later I put the entire box into the dumpster behind our building, but that’s a story for a different day.
Friends of mine who had been through breakups before had all kept things from their exes – a special necklace or that one really adorable picture. I, however, am not that type of person. If I wanted to move on and not dwell on what happened, I was going to have to cut him out of my life. He mostly took care of that when he inexplicably de-friended me on Facebook and refused to talk to me or offer any sort of explanation, but it was on me to make sure I wasn’t constantly prompted to think about him. As I said, one of the two best decisions I’ve ever made.
The second decision came about three weeks later, after dropping about 10 pounds and developing permanently puffy eyes. I received a package from him containing a GRE study book that I had lent him. Probably the most trivial thing I could think of, but it was the note that set me off. It said, “I really hope you’re doing well and making the most of your senior year.” My first thought was a string of expletives, and I seriously considered mailing it back to Chicago with an added treat – perhaps a flaming pile of dog excrement. However, in the midst of my anger, I also realized that he had a point. I should have been enjoying my final year in Vermont, and not letting his sudden decision ruin my supposed year of all years.
It was this realization that led me to create The List. Yes, it’s capitalized. I had 4-day weekends and very little to do but wallow, so I made a list of 30 things that I wanted to do during my final year in Vermont. Not only did this take my mind off of being sad, but it gave me things to look forward to and provided some much-needed motivation for me to capitalize on my remaining time in Burlington and in college. Some of the items were as trivial as ‘eat at Tiny Thai’, a Vermont staple at which I had not yet dined. However, the range was pretty wide – other items included hiking Mount Mansfield, getting a tattoo, going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, going skydiving, doing the Turkey Plunge on Nantucket, running the UVM Naked Bike Ride, shooting a gun, and attending a roller derby match, all of which I had the opportunity to do. I think I’ll most remember Halloween weekend in Montreal with one of my roommates. We dressed up as Batman and Robin and went to a male strip club. I will never, ever go back to a male strip club, but I’m happy that I was able to make an informed decision.
My story isn’t meant to be about breakups or simply passing the time. I’m trying to emphasize that wherever you are, you should be taking advantage of your surroundings and not dwelling on things that get you down. From what I’ve experienced, it is far too easy to spiral into a hole of self-pity and self-deprecation, especially in the college environment (where alcohol seems to always be at the ready). However, I’ve also learned that that is not the way to live your life, especially not as a college student with a world of opportunities available to you. Some people will say that taking advantage of the ‘college environment’ means going to parties. Lots and lots of parties. While this may be something you enjoy doing, I encourage you to also look beyond the scope of the stereotypical college experience. Find things in your college town or nearby that you want to do – then do them. You never know if or when you’ll be back. You never know if your future life will permit you the time to visit your friends or drive through the countryside or train for a race. You never know if you’ll get another chance.
So to sum up, focus on the happy in your life, and use college as a time to expand your horizons in more ways than one. Don’t wait as long as I did to make Your List.