What I Never Expected to Gain from College
One day my roommate, Jocelyn, came into the room smelling strongly of hot grease after lunch with her brother. “Where in the world did you go for lunch?” I asked.
“Five Guys,” she said. “Can you smell it?"
“Yeah, you smell like you got tossed in with the fries.”
For a few hours, the greasy smell lingered in the room, and then it either wafted away or I just got used to it, and I forgot that Jocelyn had ever been to lunch. But later, when she got up from her bed again, I caught another whiff, and it made me think.
Jocelyn smelled like where she’d been. It’s happened to me and you and everyone, because almost every place has a smell—my great aunt’s house, my best friend’s car, my dad’s garage—each carries a signature scent. The worst is Chinese restaurants. You come out smelling inextricably like a deep-fried eggroll and that is the end of it. Good luck wearing that outfit until after laundry day.
And then I realized that I often come away from a place with a hint of it still clinging to me, whether or not it is a smell. Yes, it might be the faint hint of grease absorbed into my clothing, but it could be the air of sophistication I get swinging an expensive shopping bag through the heavy doors out into the street, or that extra fist pump of energy I have leaving the gym, or maybe even the touch of humility I gain after spending time gaping in awe at sparsely hung artwork on towering museum walls. Maybe I gain maturity, maybe insight into my ever-expanding world, or maybe just a little trace of mango ice cream on my chin after stopping in an Australian roadside stand for a scoop of magic in a waffle cone.
And sometimes what I come away with from a place is completely different from what I came expecting to receive. Many times I’ve gone into church expecting God’s disapproval or shame, but come out heaped under blessings I could barely hold.
And when I look back, I guess what I expected to get out of college was four years of classes and two letters to follow my name on my resume, but what I ended up getting was knowledge, a proud sense of ownership for my craft, and a whole heap of friends I don’t mind going to Chinese restaurants and getting stinky with.0