I hope you all dearly missed me last month. I’m sure you’ve been anxiously awaiting my return, biting your fingernails and trembling in anticipation. In truth, it’s been a heck of a fall. I got my seventh and eighth concussion and was down for the count in my bed for weeks. My college wanted me to withdraw, which would have forced me to withdraw for the spring semester, as well, and forfeit a year of financial aid, and yadayadayada. But I pushed on through and got back to classes, only to find I had missed surprisingly little by being out for an entire month. This was initially a relief, but then I got to thinking about how much money I’m paying, even with heavy aid, to have missed so little.
There are lots of reasons I’m not feeling college right now. I guess I haven’t been for a while. I find the academics either vaguely unstimulating or overly obtuse, and the social scene confusing and unsatisfying. But more than that, I just can’t help feeling that it’s all a futile effort. My generation has been told this is the path to follow to be successful, but the Millenials already followed this path to a dead end. They are the most highly educated generation, and also the generation with the lowest pay.
I feel like I’m standing on a diving board. It’s shaking, and my legs are starting to tremble as well. The pool keeps rising up beneath me and I know it will be chilly, but probably refreshing, and I’m so close I can smell the chlorine. But I’m too afraid to jump.
Because who knows what’s down there? And I know what’s on the board, even if the whole experience of standing there is uncomfortable and scary and the board is digging into the soles of my feet and I can’t stop picturing falling on it and knocking out my front teeth, blood dripping down and blossoming like flowers in the unnaturally teal water below.
The thing about fear is that it’s so hard to pinpoint, and purposefully so. It’s playing a wicked little game of hide-and-seek with you, and it’s a manipulative little fucker. It gets us to doubt ourselves and turn away from what we know. It makes us question our desires and the things we think we know. It tells us “you’re just not trying hard enough” or “you’re not trying the right things” or “you’re focusing on the wrong thing” or “you’re being short-sighted.” And the worst part is, sometimes it’s right.
I’m very obsessed with absolutes. I can’t make a playlist without sorting through my entire music library for fear that I’m leaving off something important. I’m paralyzed by the little things. My therapist once assured me this was developmental, but I sure ain’t grown out of it yet. And I have so much, like, raw data coming in about life right now that I just can’t process it all and figure out what’s right.
I remember being a freshman in college and feeling rather out of place. We were getting all these messages that we were supposed to be finding ourselves, but I already felt pretty found. Now I’m a sophomore — a year later than I was supposed to be, due to the pandemic — and I’m not feeling so found anymore. I’m actually feeling pretty lost.
And on top of all that, suddenly I’m an adult: I’ll be 21 next month! One of my best friends is moving in with her partner! Who let her do that? I didn’t anticipate being in transition for so long. I didn’t realize that transition and uncertainty probably lasts most of your young adulthood. I’ve come to the decision lately that messaging kills. If we didn’t have all these expectations of how life was gonna and supposed to be, we’d feel a lot more OK about making decisions in the present, for the present, and we’d feel a lot less shitty when they didn’t go how we’d planned.
Point being: I wish I could sort my brain out into neat, color-coded files and pro-and-con lists, all dust-free and spell-checked. I wish I could figure out why I’m feeling so unsettled and so unfulfilled. I wish I could see the future. My biggest fear is that the world is gonna irretrievably change in the next decade or two and I will have wasted my youth preparing for a world that no longer exists. My second biggest fear is that I stop preparing for that world, and it continues to exist.