And then college happened
Originally published from HF Volume 36 Issue 3
Sixteen-year-old me in highschool would be very much excited to talk about the future — career, adulting, and life goals. She had it all figured out that she even outlined a checklist about her plans: to get a well-paying job right after she graduated, buy her own car at twenty-five, publish a book of her own before reaching the age of thirty, and the list goes on. This girl always knew what she wanted for herself.
And then college happened.
We often hear people sharing unsolicited pieces of advice about getting into the tertiary level of education. A bunch of adults I know believe that this is the stage where we get to experience a lot of firsts and meet new people in our life. Taking all of them into account, I grew fond of having those first times and the fun people kept telling me about. First travel all by myself, a first legal shot of alcohol, first overnight to a friend’s house just to name a few. For a long time, I held on to those terms only to realize that they are all oversimplifications of what college is like.
Being in my senior year today, I’ve learned that there’s more to college than silly first times. This is the phase where we grow and understand our own existence. If I were to define it, college for me is like unfolding life in its opposite ends. While college paves for intractable coming-of-age, this is also the phase in life where we get to realize how young we are — chances are abundant, and our liberty becomes valid. While college allows us to dream big and make new friendships, it also makes us realize that some dreams are not meant to happen, as some relationships are never meant to last. Above all, while we outgrow things in college, growing pains become aggressively real. That rejection over a project I worked hard for, that heartbreak from people I really cared about, that failing grade that didn’t land me on the honor’s list, and the loads of responsibility that keeps overlapping with one another, not to mention the hurdles of being the second born in the family – the gravity of these things started sinking in when college happened. And now,
it makes me think how come people get to tell us the good stuff about college and never the things we all should be warned about. In a way, perhaps these things are not something we should hear or know from others, because the only way to really understand the value of growing up is by genuinely going through it.
The 16-year-old me in high school might not have any idea what the future really holds for her, nor should she. That checklist she’s clinging onto may or may not become a reality. The perception she keeps might contradict her belief later on. Regardless, she will continue to be the naïve young woman that she is, until college happens.