It took me approximately four months of time in college to realize that the glory and pain of high school dissipates into nothingness as soon as they hand you that high school diploma.
My understanding of this had nothing to do with university itself. In truth, I was a tiny befuddled fish in the enormous tidal wave that was Cal, and that was never clearer than it was during my first semester. I didn't have time to reminisce about high school. I was just trying to keep afloat. The realization came when my friend Kerry and I were Christmas shopping during our first winter break back at home.
As we were leaving the Santa Anita mall we saw a boy, who had been significantly (and in my mind, inexplicably and unreasonably) popular in high school. He was wearing one of the stupid joke t-shirts he'd favored throughout 12th grade; a shirt with an incredibly lame dick joke which only an incredibly lame asshole would appreciate. He looked more like a depressing version of Shaggy from Scooby Doo than ever. Dick Shirt was with his mom, looking at boxed gift sets of Calvin Klein cologne in a subdued manner. I made eye contact with him for the briefest of seconds and looked away as quickly as I could, as if he had leprosy or something. Oh, this is the good shit, I marveled.
In a single ten second encounter I learned that life tells some damn good jokes, high school is bullcrap, I should laugh at everyone else and myself a lot more, what goes around comes around, it gets better and don't take yourself too seriously, or you'll be an 18 year old hanging out at the mall with your mom, sporting a dirty soul patch and a wardrobe from Spencer Gifts. And I will remember every racist, homophobic and snotty thing you ever said while I chortle and pity you and hope that both of us, all of us, find our way to greater things. Fuck everything. Life is exquisite.