My first-year seminar professor, in his divine wisdom, said: the jarring thing about going to college is when you go home for Thanksgiving and your family expects you to sit as you’ve always sat– quietly if you’re quiet; boisterously if you’re bold– as if your two-month absence from home wasn’t bound to change you. They’re so used to you as YOU that the whole vacation is rife with the fear that your lives together are irreversibly screwed up. Guess what, Grandma?
So, you’re stuck telling Uncle that his view on stem cell research is ridonkulous– delivered in expert exposition, of course, by the new, consummate scholar– while the rest of the table grapples with this different, excited you. They try to pull you back. You resist. You resent. They disappoint. It’s called your twenties. Get used to it.
What’s more important to you, anyway? Your comfort with their familiar conception of you, or your itchy, burning desire to let the best version of yourself ignite? If you’re wondering whether you should see a doctor about your indecision, you absolutely should. #counselingiscasual #thisisnotthefifties
You Commuter students know the struggle in real time; every day, you’re going from scholasto-mania– sometimes staying over in Newark for a good time and not telling your parents what went down while you were “studying”– to the comfort of home, where people either sense your slight differences with diffidence (which intimidates you) or disdain (which makes you question your new self).
We all know people change in college, so don’t get caught up on your self-righteous “I stand up to people who judge me” diatribe. Pay attention to your minute discretions: the moments you try something new– like supporting an unpopular political tendency, or choosing to give a sincere compliment over the sarcastic admission of admiration you usually dole out to the ladies.
An exasperated #collegelife is probably threatening to sum up the four years here. You’re also worried about if what you’re beginning to designate as “self” is, in fact, justifiable. Well, justification is determined by what you define as your standard of worth. The freedom to choose new parts of you– or perhaps stumble upon them and find what you thought was bad wasn’t actually trying to trip you– haunts the lurid question, “What purpose will this education serve?” And, as you try to draw links between your familiar “student-following-the-system” routine and your “omfg-if-I-don’t-ace-this-exam-nobody’s-going-to-hire-me” identity, a jarring fact becomes evident: that freedom to choose yourself isn’t all that glamorous. Self-doubt riddles our decision-making, and we find ourselves asking the most unexpected questions: Is this quantum mechanics course going to motivate my family life? Should this keg race count as PE credit? How the hell are we going to support Social Security for our parents’ generation if 70% of grads are $100k in debt when they start their $40k/yr jobs out of college?
You don’t need to have it figured out all at once, but as you question your values and personal morals, consider how often you actually permit yourself to waver in your beliefs. How often do you ask a question actually intending to be convinced otherwise? How relieving it can be to BE WRONG some of the time! Because that itchy, nervous, anxiety you feel inside? That’s growth. Become its best friend through thick and thin.
The evolution of the American teen demands we nourish commitment. And, as you stretch your capacity to deal with problems independently of your parents and old self, you may see that your actions are not consistent with what you say you are committed to. The word ‘inauthentic’ creeps into your inner monologue. Who is this person that says one thing and does another? #allnighters #netflix #expectationsversusreality
But dang if your muddle is permanent. Just like you decided to commit to a ‘B’ average by skipping office hours these past few weeks, you can decide to change… but not through ignorance. Ask yourself, “What are my undeclared commitments that are keeping me from being the best version of myself?”
If that’s too heavy to start off with, how about “How are my commitments impacting my life?” If you are unhappy in any areas of your life, start there. In the quiet hours of reflection, be honest with yourself first. And then share with someone who will straight up tell you how awesome you are. Don’t ever be alone in all this.
Simple, unashamed analysis (seriously, fight off the shame; nobody’s perfect) of how you got to be the person you are today will reveal a method to become the person you want to be. A person that you can get excited about bringing home to Mama at the semester’s end, or at the close of a long New Jersey Transit experience that made you glad you’re not that crazy dude sipping out of a paper bag and preaching nonsense in the terminal while everybody avoids your eyes. Seriously, that dude is freaky; stay in school, get good grades, make amazing friends, and don’t ever stop thinking for a minute that you’re done changing.