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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Growing pains of a premature cat lady

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This past Friday I visited the animal shelter. Usually this involves meeting a handful of very friendly, adorable cats and another handful whose primary purpose in life is to leave as many scratch marks on my hands as possible. But this past week, I met what I believe to be the perfect cat. I’m not ashamed to state that I am much more of a dog person, but something about Millie the gray long-haired cat had me on the fence for just a second or two.

She was a complete love bug: never wanting to stop being brushed, constantly purring for you to pick her up. And for a naïve second, I just thought to myself wouldn’t this be perfect if I could have Millie at college? Of course, this would be highly impractical and impossible because I’ll be living in a dorm again, but I was still curious enough to ask. I was informed that the animal shelter does not adopt any of the cats to college students. The wonderfully patient employee told me that in all honesty, college students weren’t responsible enough to take care of a cat. Really, we’re barely capable of taking care of ourselves. The more I thought about what she said, the more I had to agree wholeheartedly with it.

A lot of times at college I hear people talking about how grown-up they feel. It’s the first time for most people to be away from their parents and their homes. The first time doing laundry, changing the sheets (somewhat infrequently) and really, fending for themselves. They preach about how self-sufficient they are. And every time I hear this, I just think of how completely false this whole notion of growing up when you’re in college really is. I have no idea what I’m doing with myself. I’m not taking care of myself. I have three meals a day provided for me. My mom still pays for all of my clothes, school supplies, electronics, and all of my bills. My grandmother writes me a letter every single day to the point my school mailbox is going to explode. I’m essentially unable to care for myself. I’m definitely not an adult, no matter what my birthday proclaims.

In my moment of deliberation, the employee says that in the past they’ve let college students adopt. But when they inevitably graduate, often the same cats that found their “forever home” are dumped back at the shelter. In that sense, I think that college students are also pretty selfish.

Our thoughts most of the time are centered around ourselves: what am I going to write about for my essay, what am I going to do this weekend, what am I going to eat at the LDC today for breakfast? I wouldn’t hesitate to admit that at least while at college, I lead a pretty selfish life.

There’s no way that I could properly take care of another being like Millie, despite how sweet she was and how potentially happy she could make me (just call me a premature cat lady). The truth is, I barely know how to take care of myself. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. Some people talk about how grown-up they are at college. But there are also some like me who just feel stuck: I’m not quite a child or wandering teenager, but I’m definitely not an adult. As college students we’re caught in an odd web of existence: simultaneously part of a college bubble that we consider our “world” when really this world just a microcosm of a much larger identity. In a lot of ways, I feel as though college is a way-station that I have to pass through until I can really grow up, until I can actually stand on my own two feet, until I can potentially be able to take care of another living creature.

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