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Between the Lines: Savoring college life as the real world nears

Civilization is relative, and often brushed aside, when you’re a college student.

If you’re a student, or you were a student, or you’ve spent time with students, you know what I’m talking about.

Pop-Tarts or chips and salsa serve as breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pajamas aren’t just worn at night. Offices are places to take naps. Nights aren’t for sleeping. Jeans can be worn an indefinite number of times before they need to be washed.

Don’t judge. You know you do it, too.

Life adjustments like these are sometimes unavoidable as students try to juggle classes, jobs, extracurricular activities and — when you’re lucky — social lives that, when added together, invariably require more than 24 hours a day.

Sometimes, though, we get a reality check.

Yesterday, I took a jaunt to Columbus with my officemate Pat Holmes, The Post’s editor-in-chief, for a reception to celebrate an internship we’d both participated in, the Scripps Statehouse News Bureau.

That internship had been real life. We’d worked in an office. Business casual had been part of our daily routine. We’d interviewed politicians, covered speeches by Barack Obama and Joe Biden and wrote about scandals, laws being changed and people doing bad things.

Pajamas and Pop-Tarts didn’t fly there.

But when you return to the murky, uncivilized world of college life, it’s easy to forget you were an adult for a while.

Yesterday, as we returned temporarily from OU to Columbus, it took a few minutes to adjust our eyesight — figuratively, but literally, too; our office is really dark.

For two glorious hours, we were thrown back into the real world. We were adults. We wore nice clothes and shoes that weren’t flip-flops. We mingled with journalists, politicians, college presidents, “movers and shakers” who were wearing suits and talking about something other than last night’s party.

And I think what surprised us most — the thing we’d forgotten most quickly — is how easy it was to slip back into that role. I actually enjoyed chatting with important people about real-world things. And, unless they were really good at faking it, they enjoyed the conversations as well.

For me, the impromptu trip allowed me to return to a city I’d fallen in love with and experience, once again, what drew me to it as a place.

But more significantly, it reminded me that even though I sometimes forego social graces and a balanced diet as a college student, I still have a place in the real world. Since I’m in my last year of school, it’s a good reminder to have.

I enjoyed the temporary return to the bright lights of Columbus, the Statehouse, politics and small talk.

And once I’m a full-time adult, I think I’ll be OK with being that person all the time. This week reinforced that.

For now, though, I’m gonna put my sweats on and eat a bag of chips with salsa.

Rebecca McKinsey is the managing editor of The Post. Email her at

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