I'm About To Graduate From College, And TBH? I'm Absolutely Terrified

I'm About To Graduate From College, And TBH? I'm Absolutely Terrified

What happens next?

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I have always been afraid of change. I hate the feeling of instability, of uncertainty, of not knowing what's waiting for me around the corner. I like consistency, I like routine, I like predictability. Maybe that makes me sound like the most boring person on the planet, but I need to know that five minutes from now, and five days from now, and five years from now that I am going to be OK. If I don't have that sense of certainty, I feel like I'm falling through a pitch black void with no way to orient myself.

When I graduated high school, I resisted all the changes associated with it with every fiber of my being. I refused to get involved with extracurriculars at my new university, I chose a major that I had no interest in but I knew would get me a solid career one day, I clutched on to my high school friends for dear life, and I went home to my parents every single weekend. As you can probably tell, freshman year was my own personal kind of hell.

As the year went on and I stewed in the misery I had created for myself, I began to understand why I was so unhappy: I couldn't let go.

I couldn't let go of the familiarity of high school, of the comfort zone it had created for me. No, high school wasn't always pleasant, but it was easy, it was structured. And instead of trying to find a way to make college life my new normal and to create new rhythms to adapt to, I rejected it entirely and tried to recreate my same high school life in a completely new environment. It was like trying to fit a square into a circle.

Flash forward to now, as I begin to set sail on my last semester in college. Since that first awful year, I've transferred schools, changed my major, made new friends, and, though I do live at home, (don't judge me, it's free and I get to cuddle my dog whenever I want), I don't use my parents as a crutch anymore. I've grown a lot and I've learned to ride the waves of change — but that doesn't mean it's not still scary.

In a few months, I'm going to graduate and enter what everyone calls "the real world." The world of full-time jobs, picking out insurance plans, becoming a homeowner, and lord knows what else. And, as you can imagine, I once again find myself as terrified as I was that first year after high school.

It feels like there's so much I don't know. At least when I was starting college, I knew I still had time to figure this whole "life" thing out. But now, time is up, and I'm still left with a million unanswered questions. Do I need to go to grad school? How do I even begin to start a career? Where will I live? What happens next?

Not knowing the answer to any of those questions makes me feel paralyzed with fear. I truly have no idea what I'm supposed to do after I walk across that stage in May and get handed a diploma that is supposedly meant to embody my preparedness for the next phase of adulthood, when, in reality, I've never felt so unprepared for anything in my life.

The next few months are going to bring some of the most chaotic and unpredictable changes I've ever experienced, and that terrifies me. There's so much uncertainty about what the future holds and it's incredibly destabilizing and disorienting.

But I've learned better than to be taken over by that fear.

I've learned that it's OK to be afraid of change — everyone is, and for good reason. It's a scary thing to abandon your normal for something new, but "new" doesn't need to mean "bad." I won't let myself shut down this time and ignore the reality right in front of me. It's time for me to graduate and move on, just like everyone else. I can either resent that reality, like I did when I graduated high school, or I can try something different this time and embrace it. I don't need to deny the fear that I'm feeling, but I don't need to be controlled by it either. I can choose differently, and this time, I intend to.

I choose to be optimistic about my future and know that whatever happens, I'll land on my feet, because I always do. I know that a lot of things are going to change and I can't try and take the past with me, otherwise, I'll be weighed down by it forever, unable to move forward and find new ways to be happy with my life. I know it's going to get difficult and ugly at times, but I also know that I am not doing this alone and I have a strong head on my shoulders. I'm still scared, but I know that I'll be OK. I have to be.

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Why Getting Away From Where You Grew Up Is Important

College is the perfect time to get away from home and go out into the real world.
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As you get older, life sometimes makes it hard for you to take control and go to the places you've only dreamed of. There's always a work meeting, ballet recital, or something to hold you back from taking that trip planned four summers ago. College is the perfect time to get away from home and go out into the real world.

It's important to get away from everything you know at one point in your life. There is a whole world full of risk, chance, and experience. The security you have in your hometown can be traded in for adventure and change. There's a time to try something new, learn something that blows your mind, or go somewhere that takes your breath away. That time is now, to feel like you are actually doing something worthwhile with your life.

It is important to get away from where you have grown up for some of your life. You need to grow on your own, without anyone there to tell you you're wrong or out of line being a certain way. The transition from high school to college is the gift of independence. You choose who you get to be without anyone holding your past against you. It's a do-over, a second chance after the mistakes and regrets you lived through in high school. Yet, being away from home has its drawbacks as you lose familiar faces, a steady schedule, and many creature comforts. But, all of these can be found in a new place with time. Leaving the place you grew up gives you another chance to grow again, without boundaries. Travel whenever you get an opportunity because it may not come again. Test your limits while living your actual dreams. Go out and explore the world—you're only here once and don't have time to take it for granted. Leaving everything you know sounds scary, but there are great memories to be made out there.

Whether this new place for you is two hours from home, or 20, it's different, it's exciting and it's change. It is important to get away from where you grew up and learn from the adventures you embark on. It is the best way to find yourself and who you want to be. It's what you'll remember when you look back on everything you've done.

Cover Image Credit: Madison Burns

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To The People Asking 'What's Next,' I Graduated And Will Be Moving On To Better Things

So what's next for this college grad?

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I just graduated, and the biggest thing on everyone's mind is what am I going to do next.

The question "what's next" can be applied to literally any situation, and too often when people are at low points in their lives. No one wants anyone to be so involved in their lives, with advice or asking too many questions. This is creepy because it shows too much interest.

Honestly, I have not had much time to think about my future plans. My next move is grad school for creative writing. Those who know me are proud of me for that choice. My parents were worried I may never get a job as an English major. In fact, my dad told me the odds were slim and I may end up living in a box.

They overlooked the fact that the major you choose in undergrad is not always the career field you pursue. I could have been a doctor, but still have been an English major. In my case, I want to write novels, and now maybe short stories. I will be staying with my specialty of creative writing for my career. Having done an internship in marketing, I realized I have skills that transfer over to other fields, but I cannot be happy doing anything else.

I applied to the professional writing program at Towson University, but the more I talk to people, the more confused I am about my decision. I have not gotten the admissions decision yet, but I am doubting the choice I made to stay at Towson for further study. Some employers seek diversity in the academic institutions a potential candidate has attended.

Talking to people is therapeutic, but also dangerous. People's opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. In this case, I am fixated on whether my choice was right or not. I know the better thing to ask is whether grad school is right for me.

My biggest fear is failing out.

I won't know any of these answers until I'm already in grad school. It is a lot easier to reflect back on the past than to confront fears in the present. My mind, at least, cannot handle it. "What's next" is the furthest thing from my mind. I just want to grow and be better at what I do. I may not need grad school to get published, but I enjoy being in academia for creative writing.

I know my end game is to be a published author. I still don't know if how I get there even matters, as long as I am writing every day and taking steps to share my work with others. Grad school will help me develop a professional network and make friends who could possibly put in a good word for me in the future when I need it most.

People really need to be concerned with their own lives, rather than asking questions of others like "what's next." It puts unnecessary pressure on the person being asked. It almost feels like an obligation to do something big and creates a cycle of attempting to always outdo yourself. The next thing does not have to be better than the last.

We need to let people live their lives without butting in with our own opinions and projecting ourselves onto them. Our problems are not their problems.

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