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Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of the day I would go to college. I was really unhappy with my life and longed for an escape, a place where I could start fresh. Fantasies of my future self finding a place where I fit in and was happy gave me hope that I would turn out okay, and that things will get better. I am now a junior in high school, and genuinely preparing for college. The experience thus far has taught me a lot, and sparked reflection on myself and my past.
While I am incredibly excited to go to college and begin my adult life, there are a lot of new, daunting fears that I have never faced before. I have never had to make decisions as large as this, and worries about the future were never as intense. Will I be happy there? Will the major and eventual career I choose be the right one? Will I be able to support myself, both financially and emotionally? It’s overwhelming. I have been waiting for this chance for years, and I am terrified that I won’t make the right choice. The atmosphere regarding college in my social circles does not help to ease the anxiety. Lists of dream colleges and talk of all the activities people are doing to put on their transcript are common topics of conversation. It’s a never-ending cycle of competition; no matter how many activities you do, or how well you do on an ACT, someone is always there to one-up you. Sometimes I don’t even feel like I qualify for college- who am I to think I am preparing well when I have friends with straight A’s in 5 AP classes, captains of their sports, and leaders of their clubs? I self criticize constantly, and lately comparing my journey with that of my peers has been the fuel to the fire of insecurities I feel about myself regarding college.
Preparing to head off to college has also made me take a look back at my childhood in a way I never had before. While it was not a terrible one, I definitely wouldn’t describe it as “good”. For most of my life I have viewed my childhood with bitterness and contempt, desperately longing to just grow up and finally have the independence I so desired. Honestly, up until about a year ago, I still viewed my childhood negatively and with a sense of relief regarding it being over. Now, that is not the case. I think preparing for college was the first time the realization dawned on me that I was going to be an adult, and that I wasn’t a child anymore. This spawned a strange emotional journey that I am now beginning to realize is grief. I find myself reminiscing about the innocence and carefreeness of my childhood, and wishing I treasured it more. I regret not enjoying that time, as I will never be able to get it back. I grieve the little girl that was so focused on growing up that she didn’t realize how important her current stage was, and I grieve the moments from my childhood where I did allow myself to be a child, and the fact that I will never again be able to experience that. I remember being told by people to enjoy being a kid and take advantage of it, but I never believed them. Now, I can see just how right they were.
I am still processing my emotions regarding heading off to college, and am knee deep in preparation. Even so, I am working to stay positive and remember my worth throughout this process. It can be hard to acknowledge your triumphs sometimes, but it is so important. I am trying to remember that I am my own person, and doing my best. Practicing self-care and reminding myself of my strengths are tools I am using to stay positive through this experience. After all, there is a large part of me that is ecstatic to go to college. The fresh start and endless opportunities I dreamed of are still a reality.
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