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The Promise of a Pretty Picture

When I was a teenager and in the process of deciding what college I wanted to go to, I would regularly receive brochures in the mail from different colleges and universities.

Depending on the college, they would send out information about academic programs and campus life, etc, etc. I loved to look through these and imagine myself two or three years in the future living the life that was being described to me in these mailed materials.

One college in particular became my first choice early on. I remember looking through the beautiful – almost magazine-like – brochure that they sent and I could see myself in this place.

It was located in a smallish college town, about a day’s drive from my house, with tree-lined streets (the pictures showed beautiful Fall leaves too – my favorite) that indicated a quaint, but interesting, life, with lots to do, but not too much.

I thought it was perfect, and when I went out on my first round of college visits it was the first place I wanted to go.

The summer before my senior year of high school, my family set out for this town so I could tour the campus and meet with an admissions officer, and all that stuff you do when you’re picking a college.

The drive was long, but not tremendously so, but as we got farther and farther away from home, I began to wonder what it would actually be like living this far away for most of the year. Nonetheless, the image of myself at this college and in this town was still strong and I was convinced most of the way there that this is where I would be for my college years. Autumn-tree lined streets and all.

When we finally pulled into town and I saw the college for the first time, my immediate thought was:

“No, definitely not.”

The reality hit me very hard. The college had a very nondescript look to it, nothing grabbed me about it at all, and as we went on a tour and met with an admissions officer my intuition was giving me a very simple response.


If I had been savvier at the time, I would have thought:

“Wow, they have a great marketing department.”

We stayed for a day or two, and everything I saw confirmed my initial gut feeling. The town was OK, at best, and, as I learned, the climate in this place was less than ideal for me. The college was blah, and I was a little farther away than I wanted to be from home, which I hadn’t realized until driving and arriving there.

The picture that I had concocted in my mind of this place (based on the brochure) was my own fantasy of living on my own and college life. Thank God I went and visited, so that I could see that this place was no fantasy. It was jarring to let the fantasy crumble, but when I did, I made room for reality.

This same scenario has happened to me again and again throughout life, just in different circumstances. It happened when I was buying a house. It’s happened (time and time again) while dating and in relationships.

The fantasy of something can be so powerful and so intense, but reality always comes crashing through. If not at the very beginning, then eventually.

But reality always has one thing that fantasy does not.

It’s real.



Published inLiving

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