Nothing But Nostalgia

Six years ago, I started my freshman year at BYU.

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That was me. Not one of the statues. Not the red-haired girl on the left. But the wide-eyed, innocent youth on the right–so optimistic, so eager to prove himself in the real world.

Fast-forward four years of school, two years in the Philippines, a summer in the UK, five different apartments, seven sets of roommates, nine finals weeks, three jobs, forty-six blog posts, and countless slices of pizza, I find myself at the opposite end of my college experience.

Sometimes it feels like not much has changed since I started at BYU six years ago. In many ways, I guess I’m still that same wide-eyed, innocent freshman who liked to pretend that statues were real.

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But in many more ways, that wide-eyed, innocent freshman has died, never to live again. My eyes are now narrowed into slits of distrust, wary of the world around me and the people who occupy that world.

Nah, I’m kidding. I just wanted to be dramatic. The point is that a lot has happened since that first day of college back in 2008. Now, my entire college experience nothing but a memory, I can’t help but feel sentimental.

When I first started college, BYU seemed like such a magical place–like Hogwarts, only with less booze. But when classes like Transfiguration, Charms, and Defense Against the Dark Arts were sacrificed in favor of classes like American Heritage, biology, and psychology, it didn’t take me long to realize that BYU is not such a magical place after all.

Magical or not, however, BYU has been my home away from home for four out of the past six years, though it felt like home more at certain times than it did at others. College was a time of constant change, and each new semester was like a new book of the same series, a series called Matthew Does College or something more creative that I can’t think of right now. And as is the case with all book series, some books were more well-written than others. Some books had me up all night, wanting to see what came next. Other books found me reading out of sheer obligation, dredging through each chapter and looking forward to the final pages.

My experiences at BYU spanned what I believe to be the entire spectrum of the typical college experience… again, minus the booze.

College is about taking the first baby steps into the real world, which is exactly what I have done in the past six years. So despite the advice of TLC, I did go chasing waterfalls, and I did not stick to the rivers and the lakes I was used to.

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People might assume that, just because I went to a private church college, my college experience was sheltered and uneventful. Those people would be right.

Nevertheless, my college experience, unlike the BYU population, was diverse. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I both laughed and cried, both struggled and triumphed. I reaped the benefits of hard work and suffered the consequences of procrastination. I made decisions that will shape the rest of my life, for good or for bad.

Yes, I made mistakes–mistakes that I can never take back. Mistakes that I will always regret.

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Above is photographic evidence of a mistake that will haunt me for the rest of my life. That poor grass. How could I have been such a monster???

And I can’t help but ask myself, why does everyone make so many mistakes in their college years? In my opinion, it’s because college is this whole awkward phase where we wanted to expand our horizons or something philosophical like that. I know such has been the case in my life. For example, I once went skydiving… off the roof of my apartment… in a dream. Not that impressive I guess.

I didn’t do everything I wanted to do during college. I never visited the hot springs down in Spanish Fork. I never walked up to a random person and greeted them like I had known them my whole life, hugging them and saying, “I haven’t seen you in forever!”

Nevertheless, I had my fair share of new experiences. I scuba dived myself into a bloody nose, ice skated my way into a broken heart, and roller skated my way into an injured leg.

And as I look back at my time in college, a number of images flash through my mind, images that remind me just how… unique… my college experience has been.

I see myself buried in a pile of leaves.

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I see myself swimming in a sea of red jello… because I’m pretty sure that jello is the official Utah state food.

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I see my vision being obscured in a cloud of colors, chalk dust that turned my shower water a nasty shade of purple.

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I see all the people I met throughout the years, people I couldn’t imagine my life without.

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I see my first set of roommates, a group of the most different personalities you could possibly imagine. And yet, somehow, we (kind of) learned how to get along.

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I see my last set of roommates, who also got along even though (or perhaps because) we hardly ever saw each other, due to our conflicting schedules. Only we were able to gather together one final time at the end of the semester, united because three of us had a 7 a.m. final, and the other one was just crazy enough to be awake at such an ungodly hour.

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I see myself becoming part of a scooter gang. . .

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Because apparently that’s a thing.

I remember making this gem of a music video.

I see everything from fake engagements. . .

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. . .to actual weddings.

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Everything from my first day. . .

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. . .to graduation day.

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Moments when I laughed so hard that I cried.

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Moments when I cried so hard that I just had to laugh.

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I traveled the world and found myself in the process.

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But I never lost touch with my roots.

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I know that all those memories are just that… memories. Nothing more, nothing less. That time of my life is over. At times that realization makes me very happy, at others a little sad. But either way, it is time to move on.

And even though I’m not quite sure where life is going to take me now. . .

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. . .I do know that life is taking me someplace new. Everything has changed. In the blink of an eye, I have gone from being a poor college student to being just plain poor. So don’t tell me I haven’t evolved!

As I begin this new phase of my life, I feel like it’s time to leave certain things behind. Preferably, I would leave behind my insecurities, my weaknesses, my emotional baggage. But since that is easier said than done, I have decided to start by leaving behind this blog. That’s right, this is the last post I am ever going to do under this blog domain. Call me dramatic if you must, but every post in this blog has been connected to my college experience. Now that my college experience is over, I feel like it is time to end this blog as well.

I realize what this means. It means that the number of people who read my blog will plummet from three to zero, a drastic change. But anyone who is interested in still following my story can direct themselves here. Granted, I haven’t written anything in my new blog yet, but new posts are forthcoming.

Thanks to all those who have taken the time to read my musings, from my most popular musings to the musings that were much less popular (there were too many to link to just one). I hope you have enjoyed this journey as much as I have.

And now, I bid you farewell in the most appropriate, dignified way I can think of:

Bye, see ya! Wouldn’t wanna be ya!

And I mean that.

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G-Day

With my college graduation just over a month away,  I can’t help but have mixed feelings.

Today I would like to share those feelings, not so much in words (though I will use some of those), but with the help of some GIFs.

Part of me can barely contain the excitement

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Let’s face it, college is hard. Even though I chose the easiest major I could possibly think of (English language and linguistics), I am still ready to be done with homework, projects, and tests.

I want to be done with BYU

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As much as I love BYU on principle (mainly for its cheap tuition), spend too much time in the same place and you’re bound to harbor harsh feelings toward it eventually. I feel like it’s time for a change of scenery, even if I am technically still going to live close to BYU (but at least I won’t be a student there!)

My immediate reaction at the thought of being done:

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I know I used this exact GIF last week, but this particular GIF is just too brilliant to be under-used. In fact…

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OK, I’m done.

The point is, I get really excited about the thought of being DONE with school. The idea of just working full-time and then having the rest of the time to myself??? It’s almost too good to be true.

Too bad people rain on my parade by telling me how difficult life can be after college.

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Yet no matter what other people say, I won’t let them ruin my dreams of a peaceful post-college existence.

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But then people ask me what I plan on doing after I graduate, and I’m all…

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That’s when it hits me. I have no idea where my life is headed after this.

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And I realize that picking the easiest major might not have been the best option after all.

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No matter what I try, I will inevitably stumble and fall at one point or another.

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Then people tell me to date more, asking me when I’ll just settle down and get married. To which I only have one reaction.

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Let’s just worry about graduation for now, shall we?

Meanwhile, Back in Reality…

Every once in a while, there comes a point where we have to wake up and smell the rancid manure that is real life.

Recently I have found myself in an awkward position. I am less than eight months from graduating college, and I have no idea what I want to do once I graduate.

Should I go to graduate school or just start looking for a job right away? Should I stay in Provo, move back to Arizona, or find somewhere else completely different to live?

Maybe I should just find a random woman on the street and demand that we get married at once! After all, everyone around me is literally getting married and having babies. The other day, I was talking to a girl who was sitting behind me in class. I turned back to the front of the classroom to listen to the lecture, and the next time I looked back, the girl all of a sudden had a baby in her arms! Where did that baby come from? Did she give birth in class while I was turned the other way??? Why are people so obsessed with getting married and having babies????! Admittedly, I guess it’s all a part of religious culture. Even I have been known to make a joke or two or six thousand about being pregnant. As a result, people often claim that I’m baby hungry. But I in fact have absolutely no desire to eat any babies!!!

I think the best thing to do in such a time of uncertainty is to make a plan and then go for it. I for one like to seek God’s approval after making a plan. Other people might not take that route: that’s completely up to them! But religious or not, it is best to work toward something, even if it ends up falling through. And who knows? Maybe in the process you will be taken down another, better path.

Unfortunately, no matter how much you plan, many aspects of your life are simply out of your control. I have learned that the hard way throughout the years. Sometimes there is a distinct and even painful difference between what we expect life to be and what it actually turns out to be.

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That’s pretty much the tune I was singing last year. (No, I did not literally go around singing like Fantine. Even though I can relate to Fantine–remember that one time I went into prostitution to support my child???–I do not feel the need to walk around singing about how difficult life can be. That would be a tad melodramatic.) There were a bunch of crappy things going on that were completely out of my control, and my life pretty much fell apart at the seams. It was awesome!

But you know what? Things change. And I’m doing much much better now. I still have a long way to go, but at least I’m in a better place now. That’s not to say I have died and am blogging from heaven–I mean a better place emotionally. In fact, if I were to pick a song to describe my transition from last school year to now, it would be this:

Is it embarrassing that I feel empowered by a Katy Perry song? Perhaps. But it doesn’t matter because it definitely captures my change in attitude over the past year. So even though life didn’t go exactly as expected, I can’t say that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Another example of unexpected outcomes was from my study abroad trip. (I know I said I’m done blogging about that, but I promise it’s relevant). I went on the study abroad just expecting to see new places and, I admit, to possibly… find love. Don’t mock me!!! There were eleven girls and two boys, OK?! The odds were definitely in my favor (like the Hunger Games)!

Instead, I left Europe with some unexpected outcomes, most of which had to do with connections. The first type of connections have to do with possible future jobs. In an economy where who you know is so important, it’s exciting to have a couple ins with employment opportunities. Even if those connections don’t amount to anything, I feel like the application process will provide me with valuable experience. And if these connections do amount to something, even better!

Of course, the main type of connection I was referring to earlier was that of interpersonal connections. I certainly have experienced that as a result of my study abroad. Even though the closest thing I got to finding love was a CONTROVERSIAL fake engagement, I established many close friendships–especially with my beloved study abroad roommate Jacob. I went to Europe looking for romance, but I ended up finding a BROMANCE! We are quite hilarious… like two peas in a pod! He is the Marcie to my Peppermint Patty… you know, minus the thick glasses and strong lesbian vibe. *

In fact, here’s a picture of us!

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Can you tell we’re best friends? Anyway, part of why I’ve been doing so great lately is because I have someone who I can talk to and just be my complete, unfiltered self around. That is really refreshing. So although I didn’t go on the study abroad expecting to find a brother, a brother I got, and I am very grateful!

That just goes to show you that our preconceived notions of life can be quite different from what ends up actually happening. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

What does the future hold?

So what lies in my future? Well, if I were to choose, it would go something like this:

I will be a psychologist specializing in the study of child stars… but not in a creepy way. Instead, I will have won the Nobel Peace Prize for discovering what it is that causes child stars to eventually ride wrecking balls naked and set their dogs on fire. I will of course have come up with the solution. That combined with the prize money will enable my wife Emma Watson Gilliland and I to live in a beautiful mansion in Wales. My close friends and family will of course be living in our guest homes.

"Matthew Gilliland is the love of my life. I want to marry him IMMEDIATELY!"--Emma Watson, My Dreams, 1 October 2013

“Matthew Gilliland is the love of my life. I want to marry him IMMEDIATELY!”–Emma Watson, My Dreams, 1 October 2013

Assuming all that doesn’t happen, however, I’m willing to accept whatever the future has in store for me… come what may!

*This is a quote from an episode of Scrubs, as much as I’d like to claim it!

The Great Perhaps

The French Renaissance writer Francois Rabelais spoke these famous last words: I go to seek a great perhaps.

What is the Great Perhaps? In my opinion, it refers to the endless opportunities the future brings–the mystery that is tomorrow. The Great Perhaps is something that we all seek, whether we know it or not.

Most people spend a significant amount of time thinking about the future. We all want something great to come out of life. Often the present does not meet our expectations, so we work endlessly to improve our situation, only to realize we have spent so much time looking forward to the future that we forgot to enjoy the present–which, incidentally, has now become the past.

The present only lasts for a brief moment, and by the time we appreciate it for what it is, it usually has already gone, becoming yet another thing of the past. I personally am someone who tends to look forward to (and at the same time fear) the future, complain about the present, and live in the past.

Past events have either been so traumatic or so wonderful that I can’t help but let the past drive my present perspective. I want things to be the same as they were a year ago. I can’t possibly allow myself to become close to anybody because of how much people have hurt me in the past.

As for the present and future, I often find myself thinking, “Everything will get better once I reach a certain point in my life.” I manage to tolerate the present, but I don’t enjoy it until I realize I’m about to lose it. I look forward to change, but when it comes time for the change to come, I find myself having this reaction:

Why do we constantly complain about the present? Why don’t we appreciate anything we have until it’s gone?

This past year has been a bit rough on me. I don’t need to get into any nitty-gritty details, but if I were to rank all the years of my life based on roughness, this past year would definitely be in my top five (luckily, I don’t do anything like that, though if I’m ever in a really negative mood that might be a good idea for a future blog post).

Eventually it reached the point where I just didn’t care anymore. I registered for my study abroad trip and made living arrangements for my final year of college. I felt like if I could just survive winter semester, everything would be just fine. Then when winter semester ended, I found myself thinking that if I could just survive until my study abroad, all my problems would be resolved.

Will all my problems be resolved once I leave the country? Most likely not. In fact, with my trip to the United Kingdom being less than two days away, I find myself facing a whole new list of fears.

If I have learned anything throughout the course of my life, it is that change is not the answer to all of life’s problems. We can’t go through life with the notion that any problem can be fixed if we just change our lives around a little bit. However, change is as necessary as food, water, and shelter–because without change we can never see what else is out there in the world. Without change we can’t really learn and grow.

So I am making big changes in my life–not as a way to escape the present, but because I have to see what else is out there. I have to see where life can take me and which path I need to take. I have to take further steps to solve the great mystery that is my future. In other words, I go to seek the great perhaps.

Plus, whenever I see a picture like this–

Windsor Castle in England

–My immediate reaction is this:

United Kingdom, here I come!

(P.S.–Since I’m all about enjoying the present now, I want to actually enjoy the United Kingdom while I’m there. So don’t expect any more blog updates until after August 5th, which is when I’m coming back to the States. But don’t worry–when I get back, I plan to write about all my European adventures. Stay tuned!)