I’m sitting in the common room of my apartment style dorm doing homework, along with seven others. Suddenly, I start to feel jealous of them. They get another year of this: homework stress, boy drama, alcohol violations or crappy furniture. This spring, none of my friends will graduate along with me.
It hit me the other day that school is the only thing I’ve ever known. I spent 13 years in public school with the same students, people I’d known since kindergarten. From there I found myself thrown into a school of 2,500 young adults where I learned less about academics and more about how to function as a human being. The more time you spend in college, the less realistic your idea of the world becomes. I mean, we live in seven-people apartments with one toilet and one shower.
But I recently realized that soon I’ll have to start living on my own. Like, really and truly on my own.
I spent a long time resenting college. I felt like my school created an environment where I felt excluded, like everyone else was friends with each other but not me. This year, I found a group of people who made me feel like a part of the Luther College Community. A year ago I seriously considered dropping out, knowing I never would mostly for money reasons, but wishing desperately I could go anywhere else. I felt 100 percent ready to be done with school. Now I don’t want to leave it. As I sit here looking at six people who have become some of my closest friends, I cannot imagine being anywhere else. Soon I’ll have no choice.
As the semester reaches mid-point, I’ve started to look at post-graduate opportunities, such as the Peace Corps or teaching ESL in China or another post-communist country. This had been my plan since high school, to avoid the reality of adult life in America for a few more years.
I used to feel really excited to keep traveling, learn about other cultures and build new relationships with interesting people, but looking at and actually going through with it is a scary concept. Both of those options will mean maybe living on my own in a foreign country. I’ve always wanted to, but the idea terrifies me.
Even if I don’t travel abroad post-graduation, I’ll need to look for a job and an apartment. In other words, I need to find a “real” life. I’ve never lived alone before. I went from living with my parents to college roommates, so my life has always been populated with people. That makes me wonder how ready I am to live on my own.
In seven short months, I will lose my safety net where I could find anything I wanted: a best friend, a cute boy to crush on or a mentor to learn from. Real life doesn’t resemble college. You won’t find a guaranteed work-study position or a dorm with a built-in buddy (who really needs to do laundry).
I wonder how prepared I am for life at 21 years-old. Swept up in the drama of new relationships and drafting papers, we easily forget why we came to college in the first place. We’re supposed to prepare for the rest of our lives. Sometimes it feels like we’re just preparing for the next day, week or midterm. Maybe that’s the point of college. You focus on individual tasks just trying to make it through the next week and four years later you’re a whole new person, hopefully an adult.
I’ve grown a lot in the last three years; I’ve managed to fit a lot, like double majors and a semester abroad, into a really small amount of time. I feel really grateful to for this college experience, and I’m excited for what is ahead, albeit terrified. I think I’m ready, but I guess the only way to know for sure is to wait.