Our own YouthLine volunteer speaks out about the difficult transition into the unknown of college life.
Sometimes I feel like moving through life’s transitions is like swinging across monkey bars.
I am suspended between what I know and what I don’t know, between safety and chance, between something that has expired and something that is full of possibility. How can I learn to hold both at once? How can I learn to move on, and be open to new experiences, while also holding my past, and everything that has brought me to this point?
My mind takes me to this metaphor when I am in states of flux. When I am floating in the middle of my past and future. When what feels like a huge change is about to occur and I am in anticipation.
I have felt ready for college for a long time… On my graduation day, I scanned down the row of my fellow graduating seniors, waiting to feel nostalgia, or sadness. But while they dabbed their eyes and held each other in tight embraces, I felt uncaring, ready to move on. I had long awaited my high school graduation, and there, in the moment, the cinematic snapshot of flinging my cap into the air was just as freeing as I’d imagined it would be. Yet, this preparedness to finish high school does not mean I was completely prepared for the next step: college.
I have spent hours fantasizing about what I think college will be like, what kind of people I hope to meet, the beautiful experiences I want to have. While this type of thinking can be fun, I have found that it ultimately sets me up for disappointment. Change is hard, transitions are hard, and the most meaningful experiences in life cannot be completely pre-planned. My mind has the power to envision all sorts of scenarios, many good, and many bad. I can conjure up images of myself alone in my dorm room, feeling lonely and homesick, or failing a test, or being unable to sleep. However I have found that, in the actual present moment, the experiences had are ones that my mind simply cannot predict, and even the insanely tough moments are more manageable in the moment.
How anyone truly can be prepared for an experience until it is happening in the moment?
Now, in the days before I begin college, I am asking my mind to retreat from that dangerous state of fantasy and to get curious about the present moment. To notice the things around me. To breathe, deep in my belly. I cannot predict what will happen. But I have the confidence in myself that when the moment comes, I will get through it.