Home-to-school shift poses responsibility challenges

I must have been the only one in my group of friends that actually enjoyed being home this summer.

I had a job I loved — selling the world’s WASPiest clothing — and a car and my golf clubs, and that was all I needed. (Well, that and Portillo’s. It’s been a week, and already I miss Portillo’s.)

See, school and I hadn’t gotten along so well as of late. In August of last year, I quickly morphed into one of those kids my parents always warned me about — the ones who had been a little too tightly wound in high school but went a bit insane because, you know, college.

My freshman year went a little something like this: I rushed, pledged and caught the nastiest case of mono in human history, dropped pledgeship, died a little inside, sleepwalked through the rest of the year. The ability to go out whenever I pleased, to eat whatever I wanted, to be whomever I wanted to be — with essentially no repercussions — was too much to handle.

Home — so unlike college — had rules. Home, even more unlike college, had structure, because my parents had implemented a set of unbreakable commonsense commandments, and I was forced to obey them.

No 2 a.m. pizzas. No cigarettes. No gluttonous online shopping. (Ralph Lauren, if you read this, please delete my account as an act of fiduciary mercy.) No sneaking in and out of the house for late-night cruises. No sitting in bed all day and binge-watching “The Wire” or “The Sopranos,” as I did at least once a week at school. (My dad would swoop in and steal my laptop away if I even tried.)

Instead of waking up at 10:50 for an 11 a.m. class and thinking, “Nah, sleep is better than learning,” before passing out again, I had to be fully dressed in a blazer, tie and absurdly bright trousers before work started at 9:30. I was responsible for cataloguing, displaying and selling millions of dollars worth of merchandise, and for once I was up to the task. I was punctual and diligent and always accessible to my customers — a far cry from my days of constant unavailability.

But now that I’m back on campus, all that personal responsibility and maturity has seemingly evaporated. I’m finding my renewed freedom utterly suffocating, especially without the ever-filled social calendar I once had.

I’m currently burdened with the sort of free time the perpetually unemployed writers at Espresso Royale would envy. A few days ago, I spent a good two hours figuring out the best way to hang my posters.

And no longer are my friends just a few rooms away when boredom strikes. They’re spread out all over the greater Champaign-Urbana area — in apartments, in fraternity and sorority houses, in other dorms. It’s an inescapable reality of growing up that one’s friends will slowly drift away, geographically and metaphorically, but its mere inevitability doesn’t soften the blow.

I figure the question of how to fill my college days — its comparative inconsequence notwithstanding — is a microcosmic version of the dilemma we’re all supposed to face as our impending entry into the real world beckons. There’s an odd parallel between picking classes and picking jobs, just as choosing an apartment for junior year seems evocative of a future search for a family home.

College, I’ve discovered (as I assume most of us have), is just life in miniature. Never mind how remarkably catty and insulated this campus can be. Our future corporate homes are going to be just as bad, if not more so.

We’re still going to have bars to unwind at, teams to cheer on, exes to avoid and significant others to meet.

The only difference? There’ll just be another seven billion people to live with.

Adam is a sophomore in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @hercules5.