Content Warning: depictions of suicidal ideation, self-harm, and depression are extensively addressed. Please keep this in mind when choosing to continue reading.
You know, the shitstorm that was the college application cycle was a lot of things, but you know what it was really good at? Blinding us from the reality that college is real. It isn’t just this arbitrary concept that we were all aspiring towards like a trophy. No sirree, we don’t even the tiniest ounce of what shit we’re walking straight into.
Between you and me, there’s a lot of things that I love about becoming a “college student” and a lot of things I haaattteee. For one thing, I hate the fact that the name of my school overtakes me whenever people ask where I’m going. As soon as the word “Stanford” (Surprise, for those that read one of my earlier posts!!!) fleetingly slips out of my mouth, I know exactly the stock responses about to be uttered and the precise thoughts subsequently racing through their minds. To people around my age, I get everything from #1) misplaced “awe” as their worship of the school itself is projected onto me as the conversations quickly shift from being centered around my personal education, to the ACT score I needed to get in or the acceptance rate for the regular decision round or #2) people who, despite never speaking to me about college before, have already decided that I’m conceited and belittle the school I’ve chosen as my future alma mater since they assume I chose it for name alone, and not the fact that they have both amazing biology and computer science programs with a flexible curriculum (not as restrictive as Columbia, not as loose as Brown) and much more laid-back and less cutthroat environments than my other options. Basically, the minute people find out where I’m going, it’s like I’ve lost control of how people perceive me, but even worse, every time I talk about Stanford, I still feel sick in my stomach. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t get regret my choice whatsoever, and I’d probably feel the same way if I had chosen a lot of my other options, but the problem remains that I still harbor unresolved guilt over the whole matter, but also for the first time, I worry that my choice in college may have been affected by my internal need to always prove to people that I’m capable (I blame 3.5 years of being disregarded and underestimated by #debateboyz for that one), but also that the problem is simply covered up, not erased by the fact that I’m going to a big-name hotshot school, which leads me to my next thought…
College is unbelievable, but the process reads like an Agatha Christie novel.. It doesn’t help that I still have no tangible idea of what my schedule could look like for next year, who my roommate will be, or where I’ll even be living. Maybe it’s my insane jealousy and anxiety that 99.9% of all of my friends are on the semester system (make that 100%), but it really sucks being exactly two months away from move-in day and have no idea how you’ll get your belongings on campus. It’s not that I don’t have the resources to figure this stuff out, but it’s still too surreal, and it probably won’t feel real until I get there, but it’s still too far away to grasp.
Speaking of my soon-to-abandon-me friends. I’m afraid of how much, or more precisely how little, I’ll still keep in contact with them. I didn’t have that many friends in school to begin with. I made my way by being civil and nice, but I was never warm enough to a lot of people and I’m just the girl “people knew in high school”. Those people, the ones who were either friends with me by association or convenience, aren’t the ones I’m worried about. I’ve made my amends with the fact that I wasn’t the most likable person in school, and part of it was my fault. Sometimes, whenever I think I’m getting too close to someone, I feel as if I must be a nuisance and sometimes I back off, which inevitably leads to the friendship deteriorating into oblivion. But that’s beside the point for now, I’m worried about the people I consider “my best friends”, in the loose definition of the word I know today. When I was younger, I had one or two “best friends”, but the difference between them and the friends I have today, is that we only had each other. We did everything together because we were all each of us had, but it’s much different now. Unfortunately, we’re all less close now, precisely because we no longer had JUST each other, leading to my new friends of today. While we’re still close and I wouldn’t want to lose contact with them, I’m afraid the distance will hurt our relationships more than I can even imagine. My friends are so much better at making friends than I am, to the point where I wonder how people even become friends with me in the first place. I’m awkward, shy, cynical, spineless, and so much more, but not qualities you look for in a buddy to join to catch a movie or go on a walk through the park. And as they find people who could replace me in a heartbeat, I’ll be left thousands of miles away, in an unfamiliar place, by myself, trying to figure out how to initiate conversation or appear more approachable. Furthermore, one of my best friends I’ve made in high school, has become much more distant to the point where we haven’t talked in weeks, and I have no idea what initiated the tension. Their disappearance in my life hurts most precisely because I could feel it a little bit earlier in the year, but couldn’t understand it and did nothing to rectify it. And now, I have no idea how to reconcile what we’ve lost, and worry I’ve just lost a dear friend forever. I desperately don’t want the future to keep taking the friends I have now away. Besides, who’s going to tell the abundant embarrassing stories about me at my future wedding?
And to top off my mini-howling on all things relating to the never-ending anxiety that is college life, is the number-one thing I’m there for, my studies. What I do from here on out has the potential to define my entire life. Getting a B in a class derails my chance at getting into a top-notch medical school. Not securing a good summer internship ruins my shot at having a successful career in tech or software engineering. I already feel like I’m coming in from behind, and I desperately want to have everything laid out for me in a simple four-year plan, but I know, especially from my experience in high school., that I will never get anything in life that easily. I’ve tried the past few weeks to improve myself, given my rocky senior year and depression diagnosis that I don’t completely understand and I can tell my mom either wants to ignore or doesn’t have the time to take care of, since I’m so used to handling my own problems aside from matters of money or life-or-death situations. Look at any college meme page and it’s littered with light-hearted jokes that poke fun at the depressed culture of students over finals weeks and problem sets and not doing well enough, but what if I fall prey to such a stereotype. Everyday I repeat to myself that I will rise above it, but if I couldn’t do it in high school, how can I do it now, especially with my terrible work ethic. In senior year, I could count on one hand the number of times I studied for a test, and two hands the amount of times I actually did my homework before the morning it was due, if I did it at all. Yeah, I was that kind of kid, except not many people knew how bad it was. I was a girl people mistook to be “put together” and whenever anyone caught a small whiff of my true ways, they were honestly surprised and shrugged it off. I should’ve been self-destructive, but I still ended the year with straight A’s, even as a second-semester senior (#senioritis). Thing is, I was really good at handling my bad habits. Compared to people I knew who I could tell were letting work slide, I knew what I had to do to maintain appearances, because that’s what I’ve been doing for the past two years. I don’t know if it was just a severe case of burnout that never truly settled itself out, or if I really do have a problem, but I can’t jeopardize my future by letting this happen again and again in college. I want to be perfect like some of my friends so that I can achieve what I want without being recklessly irresponsible or screw everything up like I usually do, but I’m so far from it. Finish it off with the fact that nearly every teacher I had throughout my four years of high school saw me as mediocre and nothing special, no matter how much I admired them in return, made me feel mediocre myself, despite being enrolled at a school where I’m surrounded by absolutely extraordinary people. Will I ever even fit in?
I have no idea how long the list of anxieties I have about college are, but you know what’s also entirely unknown?
What the #@$!% college is anyway.