I’m here at Taylor University. June 24, 2011. CRAM. Been here for two weeks. And the question inevitably comes up, “Will I go to college here?”
I’ve dreaded choosing a school for many years now. And as the time to decide grows ever nearer, I continue making excuses and refusing to answer. I convince myself that it’s not fair that I should have to make this big of a decision right now. I don’t know what I want to do with my life. I don’t know what I’ll want to do in ten years. Sarah tells me that’s one of the most important things to look for in a school. Find a school that has the major you want. But what major do I want? I love writing. It’s … it’s vital to my existence. But can I make a living out of it? Could I really? It’s the only thing that I truly love and could see myself doing for the rest of my life. But what if it doesn’t work out? Maybe I’m just afraid to try and fail. I was thinking hard on my walk from the DC to Rupp just now. I’ve always been reluctant to make important decisions. I think I’m afraid of making something happen. What is so ridiculous about coming to Taylor? What’s so ridiculous about becoming a professional writer? What’s so ridiculous about working hard to make my dream come true? Is there something wrong with that? I don’t think so…at some point in my life I will settle down and get to work. Right now, all I can see myself doing is writing. And I think I’m willing to work hard to get good.
It would certainly help if Taylor was something less than seventeen hours away. It seems so far. Sarah tells me that’s important too. I don’t want to be super far away from my family. I know I’ll miss them when all my friends are going home over the weekend. But, again, if this is the right school with the right major and the program that will get me where I need to go, why shouldn’t I come here? It’s only four years. It will be just like Paul…a little further. But just about the same.
I need to look at other schools, obviously. But…I like the fact that I don’t have to totally rule out Taylor. I feel like maybe, just maybe, this could be my college.
I wrote that one year ago today while I was on the campus of Taylor University for three weeks taking summer classes. As you can see, I was starting to seriously think about and question my future. At the beginning of my three weeks there, going to Taylor seemed like an impossibility. But by the time I left, I thought waiting a whole year to go back would kill me. I wanted time to fast forward. When I got home, I remember saying to my mother, “Just think, in six months, I’ll probably have a college picked out!” It may have taken a little longer than six months, but I did pick a college. And it was Taylor. And I am so very excited to go there. But…there’s still a part of me that asks, “Why do I have to make such an important right now?” I don’t feel ready.
Today, I found out who my roommate is going to be. I freaked out and called my sister.
I’m scared. This is all beginning to feel too real. It’s really going to happen. I’m really going to college. In two months. Two months from today, I’ll be moving in to my dorm room on the campus of Taylor University.
I’m not ready. Not at all.
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Oh, it’s normal to be nervous before a big event like that.” If you said that to my face, I’d nod my head and mumble agreement. But since we’re in my arena, I’m not going to let you put words in my mouth. I’m going to say what I feel. Or, rather, write what I feel.
I wrote a paper for my Expository Writing class that puts into words my emotions and thoughts surrounding this whole “going to college” thing. Read it, and hopefully you’ll understand where I’m coming from.
I close my eyes and try to imagine what I will look like as a college student. My mind’s eye fast forwards past still frames of tomorrow’s Calculus test, next week’s Speech meet, the Prom dance in April, my graduation ceremony and reception, lazy summer days in the Sandhills, and frantic preparations for college until it comes to a screeching halt on a moving picture of myself walking alongside two other girls. My trusty rust-colored backpack – the one my mother used in her college days – is hanging from my shoulders, weighed down with books. I’m wearing a comfy sweater, a pair of my tried and true skinny jeans, and brown leather boots. The sun shines on my face and an autumn breeze jostles my loose curls. I’m conversing easily and laughing with the girls I’m walking with. We’re heading from class to the Dining Commons for lunch. I smile at this pleasant image and drift off to sleep.
The next morning I wake up, groggy and grumpy. I drag my stiff bones out of the cozy pile of blankets and head down the hallway to jump into the shower – my favorite wakeup call. After stepping out of the shower and getting dressed I start in on the mess of tangles that sits perched atop my head. I go to battle armed with a brush and a bottle of mousse, hoping to turn my hair into the halo of curls I imagined last night before falling asleep. Ten minutes later and my hair doesn’t look much better but I’m ten minutes closer to being late for school. I claw the curls and knots into a ponytail, make a face at my reflection, and silently curse myself for never learning how to fix hair properly.
“I’m still a child,” I think to myself. “Only a child, always a child.”
A few hours later, I’m sitting in my free period with scholarship applications strewn across the table in front of me. I feel like a survivor of an earthquake who is trapped under a pile of debris. I see a way to freedom, if only I could get my leg free of the large pillar of concrete that is pinning it down. Zero motivation to fill out scholarships today. Instead, I’m daydreaming about a boy who texted me two nights ago. He has a girlfriend, but I like him.
“I’m no good at this love stuff. How do two people go about mutually agreeing that they are attracted to one another? When did I miss out on this lesson in relationships?” Frustrated, I put my head down on my desk and wish I could have a cookie and a glass of milk and take a nap instead of going to Calculus next period.
What is it about looking ahead to the future that makes me feel like nothing more than a child? Perhaps it is my perfectionism kicking in. I can’t stand bad hair days or unrequited love blocking my path to the flawless future I envision for myself. But I am also a bit of a pessimist, so I know full well that things won’t turn out the way I want them to and perfection will never be reached. My subconscious seems to have developed a solution for the conflict between my perfectionist side and my pessimist side. In moments of stress or dissatisfaction with myself or the situation I have gotten myself into, I see myself as a five-year-old girl living inside the body of an eighteen-year-old. I have created this alternate personality to make my goal of perfection more attainable. It has to be easier to be a perfect five-year-old girl than it is to reach perfection as a young adult faced with mounting decisions about college, a future career, and boys. Right?
Maybe you think I’m joking, but I’m not. There have been times when I lay curled up in a ball on my bed, overwhelmed by the choices I am expected to make. Where should I go to college? What field of study should I major in? Should I get a Volkswagen Jetta or a Honda Civic to drive to college? I feel that I do not have enough knowledge or experience to make well-informed decisions; I am no more qualified than a five year old. I am tempted to choose based on which college serves the tastiest cookies at lunchtime, what major promises to take me on the most field trips, and which car comes in the prettiest colors.
And when it comes to boys and “love”, no five-year-old is ready for that. But I’ve watched enough Disney princess movies to have some idea about Prince Charming and life-saving kisses. I’ve taken those animated images of starry-eyed gazes and decided that’s how I feel about a certain boy. But when I think about him looking back at me with that same look in his eyes, I self-consciously feel like some creature – some thing that is simply incapable of being loved. I’m nothing more than a child – an infant. Cute for a time, but in the long haul, a burden. Something to laugh at; there to coo at and talk baby talk to, but not a young woman worthy to love. I whine too much, cry too easily, fish too fervently for compliments and attention. Who would bother to love me?
Yet, from somewhere buried deep within this childlike composure, a hushed voice cries out for fulfillment. Underneath the façade of inexperience and uncertainty is a young, confident, opinionated woman who wants to be valued and appreciated for all she is. There have been a precious few moments that have given me hope: opening a letter from the University of Nebraska that offered me a full-tuition scholarship or receiving a text from the boy I like that read, “I want nothing more than to protect you. I have never wanted anything less than the best for you.” My heart fluttered for an instant, daring to believe that I was genuinely respected by some institution and treasured by some boy. But all too soon I was reminded of the magnitude of my finiteness; with a glance into a mirror I see the child staring back. I scrunch my nose at my reflection and walk away, leaving the child to be dealt with some other day.