My friends and I have determined there are two types of people in the world: high school people and college people. The names are pretty self-explanatory–high school people are those we love to hate because they peak in high school while college people have their shining moment a little later in life. These loose categories were formed sometime halfway through sophomore year of high school, when the idea of being “college people” blew our minds. We obsessed over the idea of being the life of a real college party one day instead of being the ones left out.
We never took these labels seriously. As we grew up, these labels changed from constricting categories that put everyone in a box to another inside joke. That is, until about a week after we walked across the stage together with our high school diplomas. It was our typical Monday night Bachelorette watch party when my friend asked me a question I never thought I’d hear: “What if we were high school people all along?”
My response was immediate. “Dude, do you remember freshman year? There’s no way.” The thought of being a high school person–meaning all my best years were spent in mandatory gym and quiet study halls–made me sick. But after a couple minutes of contemplation, it occurred to me that it was quite possible I was a high school person. Things in high school were pretty good, if I’m being honest. I was involved with different clubs, had a good group of friends and was well known within my small class of 200 students. I can tell you exactly the type of person I was in high school and exactly how I fit into the overall picture of my class.
College me, though? She’s an undefined mass–a question mark. These lingering feelings of apprehension and nostalgia made me doubt that college truly will be “the best time of my life.” Right now, college is just ambiguous and scary.
I’m afraid of failing classes, missing my family, making new friends–but, truthfully, all of these fears are encompassed by one, overarching question: Where do I fit in at my college campus? No longer can I cling to the comfort of my high school reputation. I’m being forced out of my small pond and tossed into uncertain waters; waters teeming with over 17,000 fish that don’t care if I was the November Student of the Month. I’m not the big fish anymore, and I can only hope that the big fish see me as a friend and not food.
I know I’m not alone in this fear. No matter the size of the pond you come from, and no matter the size of the pond you head to, no one likes leaving familiar waters. Maybe high school was awful, or maybe it was fantastic. Regardless of how you feel towards it, it’s comfortable. You knew which bathroom to avoid, which lunch line was best, which teachers actually marked you late and perhaps, most importantly, where your place was–even if it was sitting at the corner table during lunch playing cards with closest friends. There’s comfort found in familiarity and paralyzing fear in the unknown.
The truth is, I can’t answer my friend’s question unless I plunge head first into my new pond. Maybe I am a high school person and the fear of the unknown will drown me. Or perhaps I’ll find joy in starting over. Yes, college is scary. But it’s also a fresh start and one that holds no judgment of the past. I know high school me. High school me was student council vice president, captain of the mock trial team, the class clown and a generally nice person. Yet, she was pretty boring. She didn’t go out of her way to meet new people, or try new things.
I don’t know college me yet. I do know I can be anyone I want to be. Maybe I can even be a college person.