College and Change is Scary—But You're Going To Be Okay

In my senior year of high school, amid the hectic mess of college applications and classes, I was assigned to read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. While the book interested me, I wasn’t able to connect to the motives of the main character, Holden Caulfield—specifically his need to hold onto innocence. I read the coming-of-age story far before I began college, so at the time some things didn’t quite make sense to me. Why was he so afraid to grow up? I mean, I myself probably wouldn’t have minded being a kid for a bit longer, but it’s life. We grow up, we transition, and we deal with it—it is what it is.

My perspective on that all changed when I entered college. During college applications and decisions, we all carry a little bit of innocence. After all, it can be hard to fully comprehend what we’ll experience in a year. Going to college is so deeply ingrained in our society and talked about regularly, the change doesn’t always seem so monumental. College at first is fun and exciting! You have a chance to reinvent yourself! You’re meeting new people left and right! Yet even before the classes start, there are some challenges. I’m lucky enough to live somewhat close my home in Kirkland, so I can go see my family on the weekends. Meanwhile, my friends from out of state miss home all the time. They miss their beds that they don’t have to climb up a ladder for, their family who texts them every day reminding them to eat, and their friends who they could confide in.  

Everything begins to move quickly. Classes become harder, relationships are more difficult to maintain, and one is expected to just move forward with life. Suddenly, a month into the quarter, the realization hits me that everything I’ve ever known back home will never be the same again. My friends who went out-of-state for school may never come back to live in Kirkland. Hell, with graduate school and work, I may never come back to live in my hometown. Life can take you anywhere, and as exciting as that is, it’s also terrifying.

With the tribulations of college and adulthood, l have begun to understand Holden and his insecurities. Home and the past are familiar and comforting, and thus it’s easy to want to stay in that bubble of safety. It’s hard to let go of the comfort and sense of innocence I once had, yet it slips from my hands anyway. Like Holden, I find that I’m trying to save myself from something inevitable.

However, I shouldn’t complain. As stressful as college is, I am still thankful that I have the opportunity to get an education and try something new. Though the past is comforting, the fear of the future should be embraced. In the meantime, my childhood and the glory of innocence is something I will eventually have to let go of, like Holden. Sure, life’s mysteries can be terrifying, but they might lead us to something even greater.