Everyone thinks that college is supposed to be this magical time of growth and self-discovery where you find yourself, discover life-long friends, and create memories that will last forever.
But right now, with where I am at in my college career, I'm calling bull.
This has been by far the most exhausting, most frustrating, and the most anxious time of my life. I'm trying to preserve existing friendships, maintain family relationships, navigate new relationships, boost my GPA, pass my classes, work part-time, succeed in an internship, and maintain personal care like showering and going to the gym. It's exhausting, and it's demanding.
Right now, in the middle of finals, senioritis, and an ever-increasing amount of pressure to "finish strong," it doesn't feel like there is any kind of light at the end of the tunnel. It feels like the tunnel is 1,000 miles long and I've got 60 pound weights on each shoulder and both ankles.
This mindset that college is the ultimate coming-of-age experience is born from perspective. When you are finally finished, when you've taken your last final, then you can look back and reflect on all of your hard work, your experiences, and the friendships you have made. But when you are smack in the middle of the drama, the anxiety, and the stress, nothing else matters except making it through one more class, one more assignment, one more exam.
Right now I'm not thinking about what I've learned from my college experiences, or finding the silver lining in losing my best friend. I have no interest whatsoever in the big picture of my college experience. I have complete focus on finishing my assignments, passing my finals, and graduating. That is all I care about and can focus on right now. I just want to spend what little free-time I have with my friends and enjoying their company, not worrying about if we are going to best friends after graduation.
I think people forget how challenging it is to "find yourself" - they forget how many times you have to fail, and disappoint others, and make stupid decisions, before you find yourself. In the process of finding yourself you have to first lose yourself, and that involves a lot of pain, heartache, loss, and anxiety.
To "find yourself" you have to be broken down to nothing, and then you have to rebuild yourself from what's left of the pieces. When you've hit rock bottom, and you feel like giving up because you have nothing left to offer, and you feel like you won't ever be good enough to get the things you want and have worked for, that's when you find yourself.
It doesn't feel that way though. It doesn't feel like I'm finding myself while I'm forcing my body to defy it's natural instincts to sleep because I have to study for a final. It doesn't feel like I'm finding myself when I'm crying in my bathroom because my boyfriend dumped me. It doesn't feel like I'm finding myself when I stay up until 3 am finishing a paper that I will only get a B on.
In the moment, it feels like the end of the world. It doesn't feel like these experiences will pay off later.
If you ask a new mom if they would go through the pain and exhaustion of labor again, most will say yes. It's because our brains are programmed to forget pain and trauma. We know that it hurts, but our bodies force us to forget exactly how much it hurts and what it feels like. It's part of the healing process.
I think this is what happens with college as well. Our brains and bodies put the bad experiences behind us and allow us to forget. People forget what it's like because they can only remember the good: the memories, the friends, and the experiences. People forget that in the middle of all the friendships, the self-discovery, and the adventures is pain, anxiety, depression, and loss.
College is hard. And exhausting. It pushes us to extremes that we never thought possible. But when we are finally finished, and the light at the end of the tunnel is far behind us, then we can look back and see how we've changed and how we've grown.
Then we can look back and say, "College was the best time of my life."
But until I get to that moment, all I can say is: "I'm just gonna drop out."