Learning to cope with the college equivalent of the unknown
8 a.m.: Paper, column, breakfast (maybe), coffee (definitely), research proposal, shower, stress.
10:47 a.m.: Wallet, keys, phone, out the door. Stress. Forget anything? I don’t think so.
11:06 a.m.: Lecture. Stress.
Major: still undecided.
Under this amount of stress, I’ll be lucky to make it to 30 without having a heart attack — or flying a few times over the cuckoo’s nest. And I haven’t even made it to lunch yet today.
At the crest of the third week of school, I’m already contemplating Xanax a little more seriously than is acceptable. Let’s raise a glass to hoping these next three years won’t drive me to drinking.
I want a plan to direct my energy to the most meaningful areas of my life and drain the stress out of my pipes. All I need is the newest edition of “Determining the Future for Dummies,” which unfortunately has yet to be authored. I buoy around in limbo not knowing what I need to do tomorrow, what I should major in or what I want to be when I grow up — the typical questions we’ve been asking ourselves since kindergarten career day.
Yet I feel further from the answer now than I ever was. Life was easier as a 7-year-old when I was toying with the idea of being president. Does it even matter what I major in or what my GPA is? Many have told me yes; just as many, though, have said no. Good, thanks for clearing that up everyone.
When it comes to education and careers, I would rather just read the last page and know what I have coming to me. I envy those who have wanted to be a teacher since the seventh grade, or those who discovered early on that biomedical science was their one true calling.
I’m ready to discover my calling! I’m listening! Hello?
Wherever the flow is, I’m certainly not going with it. “Que será, será,” my ass. Someone please just tell me what to do.
My dear friend Connie — to pose a foil to my probable stress-induced cardiac arrest at 30 — will probably live at least a century. She has a knack for rolling with the punches unlike anyone I’ve ever known. For the sake of efficiency and an 800-word limit, I will refrain from fleshing out her entire backstory. Just know she’s awesome, and that starting in Springer Mountain, Ga. mid-March and ending at Maine’s Mount Katahdin in August, this agent of badassery hiked the entire Appalachian Trail.
A rudimentary summary of her typical day: waking up with the sun, walking for about 18 miles and going to sleep at sundown. Often she didn’t know the time, nor did she care. She knew well enough where she was, but probably didn’t know her exact location.
She would wake up some mornings not knowing if she would see anyone at all that day, or that week. She went with the flow like a champ, setting only basic expectations for the day — knowing that hiking more or fewer miles than her goal was totally acceptable.
One of her few complaints about the experience was that too many of her fellow thru-hikers only cared about the end goal and didn’t divert with spontaneous adventures or relish in the experience. Too many folks just do it to say they did it.
I find myself identifying with those hikers more than is probably healthy. Sometimes I keep my horse-blinders on and never let myself sink into the immediate moment. If I asked Connie what to major in or if my GPA matters, she would say, “Who cares?”
So I’ll take the advice of my hiker pal. I’ll work on taking my eye off the prize. She’s helped me realize at this point in my life, I have plenty of time to work out the kinks — heck, I’ve got way more than even the next three years to do that. I’m going to start reminding myself now, so I know that come graduation, when I still may not know what I want to be when I grow up, it will be all right. Just like Connie, I will reach my Mt. Katahdin in good time. It may take some yoga and anti-anxiety drugs, but I’ll make it — and wherever it is, I’ll be fine.
So for now, I’ll try to breathe deeply and not cry every time I fill out a form with “Major: undecided.”