I’m a second-semester high school senior. I’m going to college in the fall to study what I’m passionate about, to pursue a career, to learn new things, to meet new people. I’m excited, because college is a change, a new chapter, the next step, and I think it’s going to be wonderful. I’m going to college because I want to, because for me and for what I want to do, it makes sense. It’s not for everybody, and that’s okay.
I’ve heard a lot about the “college experience” throughout my high school years. I’ve been told that college will be the best years of my life. That college is where I’ll find myself. That when I graduate from college I will be a different person.
But I don’t want to be a different person in four years. I want to be a more educated and experienced version of the person I am now. I want to have discovered new passions and learned new skills and had some fun. I want college to help me grow, but that doesn’t mean I need to become a different person.
Think that sounds a little pretentious? Keep reading, it gets worse.
I want my four years of college to be great, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure they are. And yes, I do want to look back and say my college years were wonderful. But I don’t want to say they were the best years of my life. That seems to me like it would be sad. I hope that when I’m forty years old–with eighteen years of life experience after college–I don’t look back and say I peaked in college. I hope I look back and say that college was great and so was high school and so was everything before and after that. I hope I look back and say that my college years helped me in life, but they weren’t the best because life after college is pretty great too.
I’ve never really liked the term “finding yourself” because I think it sounds too whimsical and too final. It refers to when one learns more about the purpose of their existence, of their place in the world, of who they are. I understand that college offers countless opportunities to explore and learn and that many people find their path in college. They discover that they enjoy science and decide to pursue it as a career, or they realize they were never really meant to be an English major and instead decide to study art. Many people find their purpose while they’re in college, and that’s great. It really is. But I think the term “finding yourself” is misleading because it gives the illusion of being something you should pursue when in reality, it’s something that just happens, every day of your life. Before, after, and during college, you learn new things about yourself. It’s not just one epiphany moment in college. It’s that moment, all the moments that came before, and all the moments that will come after. You can’t not find yourself because life doesn’t work that way. It’s the same with saying you need to “find your voice.” No, you don’t. You already have your voice. You just need to seek out opportunities to use it. (This is something I learned from William Stafford, one of my favorite poets).
I think I’m going to have an amazing college experience. I think I choose a great college and an even better career. These things may change, of course, and I’ll be okay with that.
I hope you feel the same way. I hope you love your college years. I hope you find your passion and learn new things and find a good group of friends and pursue your dreams. I hope that good things happen to you in college and out of college. And if you’re not going to college, I hope all of the same things for you. I just hope you’re happy.
“It’s not about what the world can give to you, it’s what you can give to the world.”