Photo by Evan Sheehan | @evantsheehan on Instagram
The last 12 years of my life have been leading up to one thing: college. Within the next three or four weeks, I will have to decide which road to take after I graduate, and it’s not an easy decision. And it’s not supposed to be an easy decision, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to complain about it.
From day one of the college process, I have been completely obsessive. Every thought in my head, every word out of my mouth revolved around college in one way, shape, or form. For the first three-ish years of high school, I was a grade A slacker, and by the time reality came along to slap some sense into me, a giant part of me thought it was too late to even consider college. So, to balance out past-me’s procrastination with present-me’s determination, I applied to 17 colleges, and in the process sold my soul to Satan. At least, that’s what it felt like. On top of balancing 17 college applications, I took on absolutely every single other opportunity that life presented me with, in order to fill up the pages of my apps as much as I could.
Do I regret it? No. Everything I currently do, I absolutely love. I’m in multiple choirs, I write for multiple publications, I have AP classes coming out of my ears, I’m always auditioning or involved in a production. But also, I get no sleep. I don’t eat that often, I’ve lost three pounds in the past week due to stress from my commitments on top of my diagnosed anxiety. I don’t get to spend nearly as much time with my friends and family due to the fact that I’m usually always busy with something. For the longest time, I was trying to convince myself that unless the colleges saw how obviously I was killing myself with extracurriculars, they wouldn’t accept me, and I would be doomed to a life of working minimum wage jobs and not being able to pursue the things I love. But through the tedious process of wading through paperwork and transcript upon transcript, I discovered something very important. Whatever I choose to do next year will not screw me over for the rest of my life.
I believe college is very instrumental to a wide variety of careers. I also believe that mental health is very instrumental to being a functioning member of society. Finding a balance between the two is tricky. Knowing how to say no is important, whether that’s to friends wanting to hang out, or to an opportunity that seems dumb to pass up. If you spread yourself too thin, nothing you commit yourself to will reach it’s full potential. College does not define you as a person. If you have to do a little community college before transferring to a “real” school, that is OKAY. You should not be ashamed for making the smartest choice for you. If you want to take a gap year and explore the world or get closer to your family, that is OKAY. I promise college will still be there next year. If you don’t want to go to college at all and you want to become a lone ice fisher on the Alaskan tundra instead, that’s slightly concerning. But go for it, man. College doesn’t equal happiness. Every situation is different.
If you’re graduating this year like me, make the wisest decision while also making sure it’s the decision that will make you the healthiest and the happiest.