One year. Twelve months. 365 days.
It’s been more-or-less a calendar year since I started to ritualistically log onto the Common App website every day after school, dreadfully responding to some variation of the question, “What do you expect to gain from making this monumental decision about your future?”
But one year/twelve months/365 days ago, the answer was simple. I wanted to tell stories, and I wanted to tell them so exceptionally that, in the future, people would be able to turn to my art when they needed it.
Now, a calendar year later, that hasn’t changed. I still stand by that dream. I walk around campus and attend my classes and connect with people, and I am exhilarated and awakened and just the right amount of terrified by the realization that I am exactly where I need to be in terms of my career and the rest of my life. Yes. I know what I want.
It’s just that there’s another dream I forgot to consider in the process. One that strays from cover letters and auditions and interviews. One that matters on such a strange and deeper level.
As someone who grew up on a steady diet of books and TV shows, stories not only fed me but helped me understand the world. Fiction was my guide to reality. It navigated me. And now, I’m terrified to say that I feel lost because I don’t know what I want personally.
I never forged a personal dream that extended beyond my four years in my small-town high school.
I mean, how could I? I grew up connecting to The OC’s core four walking down the pier, to the senior class of West Beverly crying out, “Donna Martin graduates!” to the ephemeral yet infinite moments where the teenagers in their fictional worlds were rightfully invincible. And everything that followed was never as fulfilling or touching or exciting as Nathan Scott making that winning shot or Ryan Atwood racing up the stairs to find Marissa Cooper on New Year’s Eve.
It doesn’t help that the college years consistently make up the worst seasons of TV shows. Gossip Girl without Constance and St. Jude’s felt directionless and empty. Brenda freaking left, and One Tree Hill and Pretty Little Liars skipped over the calamity altogether.
Even Teen Wolf, in its last weeks, fought to keep the characters in a high school setting because there’s something shimmering and ineffably beautiful about the time in your life where every test and fight and kiss feels like the most important thing in the world.
Nothing feels quite as special as the innocence and intensity of a first love, the limitlessness of a long-time friendship, the now that resembles forever.
So maybe it’s not that I don’t know what I want personally as much as it is I don’t know what I want personally…from college. Because I know what I want now.
I want to do it all over again. I want to squeeze through the hallways and know the faces I pass and the histories hidden behind them. I want to spend too much time in the morning making sure every curl falls into the right place because how you present yourself to the world matters—because everything matters.
I want to feel my ribs against the railing of the stadium, feel the bleachers rattle under my feet, and let the electric atmosphere buzz against my skin.
But the time for those experiences is over. And I don’t know what to do with myself.
No one ever wants to be the person who is stuck in the past. The person who, god forbid, “peaked in high school.” Especially if you didn’t. Especially if you were too overwhelmed by AP classes and SATs and too stressed and too sad and too everything to enjoy those incredible moments that were sentimentalized—maybe almost promised to you—in fiction.
No one wants to hold onto what is no longer there. But I don’t know how to move on, because a part of me doesn’t want to.
This emotional aimlessness doesn’t permeate my everyday life. But as an artist and a human being, it’s impossible not to notice its presence. It’s like an open wound, like a relationship that ended without an explanation, a friendship that faded into scattered conversations then a couple hellos then nothing. And, like all open wounds, I know that in another year/twelve months/365 days or so, it’ll heal, and I’ll move on, and all that will remain will be a scar to occasionally remind me of what was. It’s just a matter of time.