Looking back at myself: a face full of makeup complete with a smoky eye that I had carefully done and redone watching a YouTube tutorial, to match my sparkly silver heels, waiting for my prom date to show up, makes me genuinely chuckle. At the time, my biggest worries were where I was going to go to college, what my major was going to be, and how I was going to figure life out in a dorm room. At that exact moment, however, my biggest worry was that my prom date was late and I wanted to reach the banquet our prom was being held in early, but not too early so that I could walk in with my friends and their dates. I had spent months thinking about what dress I was going to wear, the color I wanted it to be, and how I would match my jewelry. I thought those senior year prom photos were going to be the thing I look back and cherished the most. Now, at 21 in my senior year of college, I can honestly say I’ve looked at those photos maybe twice in the last four years.
Up until that moment, my biggest stressors had been what IB classes I wanted to take because they would ultimately determine my major and those would determine my college choices (my application was only as good as the classes I chose, obviously). In return, that would absolutely determine the career I would have soon after. Once those decisions had been made, I moved onto worrying about how the college I chose to go to would determine my future, where I would end up living and working for the rest of my life, and how that would affect my career prospects.
Earlier than that even, I was worried about what I would do if my best friend at the time wouldn’t stop being mad at me and would stay ticked off for whatever it was that I did or didn’t do. If we would ever be friends again, I was worried how it would ruin my seventh-grade experience, thus changing the trajectory of the year and thereby my life, forever. These little moments plagued my entire being and made me think there was nothing bigger than that to ever stress me out. Little seventh grade Natasha had no idea what was about to hit her. She hadn’t yet realized that one day she’d be making decisions about what kind of phone plan she wanted, managing her whole life by herself, and paying rent for the apartment she lived in.
I still can’t fully ascertain whether these mini freak-outs were a result of anxiety or just the human mind. From what I’ve understood, at each stage and moment of your life, there’s always something. That one thing that you’re banking on going a certain way, and if it doesn’t you’re sure all hell will break loose. Maybe it’s that one decision you’re trying to make that’s going to haunt and plague you forever because you just can’t decide what’s best to do in that moment. Should it be a yes or no, should you quit your job or not, should you move out or not, should you move here or there, should you buy that bag, should you say hello to that stranger, should you change your major or should you take that gap year? I’ve realized the answer to all of these choices is yes, you should. If that’s what you want to do. Every decision I’ve ever made has been the best possible decision I could have made for myself, given the circumstances and given the knowledge I personally had. That’s not to say it was the “right” call or the correct way to go about things, but it definitely was the way that I ended up doing things — and that’s okay. Things can seem so much larger than life in a moment of panic on uncertainty, but putting it into perspective and stepping away can change things completely.
Right now, I’m worried about what comes “next” now that my senior year is creeping to a close. As I work on my grad school applications, I’m left wondering whether I’m making the right choice to undergo more school, or if I should take a year off, work a little, and then get my head back into the “college game.” As the nerves and the sense of overwhelming, yet inevitable decision-making comes closer and closer, I can’t help but think once again that these are the choices and these are the decisions that are going to determine my entire future. And that might be true. But five years from now, when I’m 26 years old living who knows where and doing who knows what, I’ll know that whatever I did worked out okay and I’ll probably look back at this time in college thinking about how easy I had it.
So yeah, my prom dress was pretty important — at that moment. Did I make the right style choice? Absolutely. Could I have gone for a color that wasn’t black? Also a resounding yes. Did I reach prom late, after all my friends had already arrived because my date was running late and my parents made us take one too many awkward photos in the entryway to our home? Yup. Did being late change the entire trajectory of my life? Not really. When I look back at high school, I remember the fun I had with my friends, the teachers that I didn’t like so much, and the walks back home. I remember the after-school lunches I snuck off to have with my friends, the excuses I made when I came home past my curfew and the whispers of who likes who as they made their way around the cafeteria during lunch. All those moments of stress and worry don’t feel so important anymore, because ultimately, I know I made the decisions I could, and even now, I will continue to do so.