When I was a freshman, I thought that being a working adult would be paradise. Corporate America would mean the absence of my biggest Duke gripes: midterm exams, big egos and suspiciously soggy $5 cantaloupe. Never again would I spend $10 on 10 grams of salmon or sob over a silly school assignment. I would get paid for opening my laptop. What could be better?
Of course, you don’t get paid just to open your laptop. You get paid to work. Certainly, work freed me from exams and presentations. But it also restricted the freedoms I had taken for granted at Duke, which I hope to cherish in my last year here.
Office coffees replaced my afternoon naps. Before, I could barely drink tea without getting jittery. By August, three cups wasn’t enough to kill my caffeine migraine.
I spent a lot more time indoors than I expected. I didn’t realize I might even miss the glass paneling at WU, which makes my food look a lot more appetizing than fluorescent office lights do. On the flip side, the complete lack of UV exposure during my waking hours had a silver lining: My skin looked fantastic.
When my summer ended, I realized I should have cherished my college experience a lot sooner because of its flexibility, its friendships and its fleetingness. I sometimes thought Duke was a dungeon, but I should have realized it is Neverland.
At school, we can wear whatever we want. Neither foot-friendly Crocs, nor fashionable Birkenstock clogs, nor questionable “white” sneakers will violate any official or unofficial dress code.
Even running errands like grabbing an afternoon snack, picking up packages or doing cardio likely means running into a friendly face. As an adult, I don’t think I’ll ever run into several friends at a coffee shop randomly on a Tuesday. If I must cry, it’ll be over FaceTime instead of face-to-face at a booth in the BC McDonald's. I will have more financial freedom and more mobility, but I’ll also have fewer opportunities to experience the best and worst parts of adulthood with so many people.
I do think this romanticizing has gone too far. Even the Farmstead salmon presents in my imagined Gothic Wonderland. But in my defense, microwaving fish or other strong-smelling foods in the office is bad kitchen etiquette. When else do I have the privilege of eating fish for lunch? Similarly, I would much rather eat fresh-cooked food from WU every day than alternate between reheated Trader Joe’s frozen meals and girl dinners, which I did some weeks this summer.
To be fair, Duke is not perfect, and all these benefits are far from free. Tuition costs more than $60,000 a year, and salmon and two sides costs more than $17 after tax. Sheesh.
But for these four short years, we have freedom to learn about our majors, about other people and ourselves. We can discuss world cinema by day and design algorithms by night. We can walk to our friends’ residences instead of driving or flying to another city during holidays.
I’m still not the biggest fan of midterms, late nights or academically stressful times. However, I’m not their biggest hater either. Soon, I won’t even have the opportunity to hate on them. I’m not sure what my 20s will look like, but I do feel certain that my corporate office building won’t look as cool as Rubenstein, and the nap pod (if there is one) won’t feel as comfortable as the Oasis’ yoga mat.
With this in mind, I hope to treasure each remaining moment of my Duke experience.
Jessica Luan is a Trinity senior. Her column typically runs on alternate Fridays.
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