16th Grade

On a Monday in the middle of August, my roommate and I sat on the long grey couch in my living room posing for our last “First Day of School” pictures. Looking at the camera I smiled, thinking about how grateful I was to be finishing college living in an apartment with my best friends. Suddenly I got the feeling that my entire college experience was slipping away from me and I felt desperate to grab on. After a couple of therapy sessions and quality talks with friends, I realized that what I was feeling was nostalgia mixed with excitement and sprinkled with fear, the emotional theme of 16th grade thanks to COVID, an election year, basically the fact that the world is quite literally on fire. Toss that in with the knowledge that “real adult life” is about to begin and my anxiety meter skyrocketed.

 

I really thought I was the only one that felt this fear of college ending- with it all the comfort that comes from spending four years cloaked in the safety of undergraduate life. I sit here on campus looking at all the students walking past me at 9:00 p.m. and smile thinking back on the number of times I would walk down campus at night with my friends after studying for hours, or tearfully calling my mom telling her I was done with college and ready to live off the grid. A pang of nostalgia, sadness, and gratitude washes over me. I desperately want to latch on to being in college and I know that when I start to feel like this it is time to let go. Side note, someone walked past with the world's tiniest dog, I got to hold the dog, and this is why I love college. Where else are you going to ask a complete stranger to pet their dog and they be happy to provide the puppy love you desperately need?

 

That pang of nostalgia, sadness and gratitude that I felt on the first day of school is what told me that I was ready to take a break before entering 17th grade. Choosing to work for one of the companies I interned for instead of pursuing my masters was a decision that did not feel safe, nor did it feel like an easy decision. When I left high school, I was ready to start a new chapter, itching to do something different, and terrified at the same time “How will I make friends when I haven’t had to make new friends since elementary school?” was one of my biggest worries. Luckily when we start college, there are various activities that happen to make sure you know the campus. Orientation groups were my favorite, and everyone is in the same place; they usually don’t know anybody else and are equally excited and scared when it comes to making friends. After graduating, when you move to a new city and live on your own for the first time… WHERE IS THE ORIENTATION GROUP AND WHEN CAN I SIGN UP? An “entering adult life 2021” Group Me where we can all post little “about me” find friends to grab dinner with?

 

It is crazy to look back and see that as I grew and changed, the things that feel really hard changed too. I am not wired to be someone who gets comfortable and stays comfortable. Not knowing is terrifying and thrilling at the same time; I get to take the degree I spent four years working for and use it in the world. If you asked me a year ago, I would have said that working after finishing undergrad is the safe option and that truly pushing my limits would mean going to grad school immediately afterward. Four years ago, making new friends and starting college was unfathomable. My stomach twists in excited knots as I think about how different things will be next year. It feels like I am being tossed into a whirlpool after spending time in the lazy river.