In the media college is portrayed as the golden years of youth, celebrated as the best time in one’s life. Coming into college there are so many expectations, it’s a burning fire of both excitement and anxiety.
For years I dreamed of the college application process, opening my letter to my dream school, UCLA, and starting out on the best four years of my life. I got that far, Now with the first quarter complete it’s still the hardest transition I’ve ever had. Although things are definitely not what my senior self expected, I’m slowly figuring it all out.
Within the first few weeks of college everything that I once associated myself with was stripped away. I no longer had my friends, my sport, or my established position in the community.
Moving from a school that encouraged all students to have an active voice, to a university that can drown out all but the very loudest was stifling to say the least. My college in particular is very competitive, with many clubs having lower acceptance rates than the school itself. I didn’t make it into a single one of my top choice clubs. Without the structure and organization I was used to, the passionate and determined version of myself I once knew faded away.
In high school I was as a social butterfly, willing to befriend anyone. In college for the first time I am finding that people aren’t as willing to welcome me into their social circles like back home. I’ve found that friendships of convenience happen all too quickly. In just three months people I thought would be with me all four years have come and passed. I find myself questioning my core values and beliefs constantly, trying to hold on to the pieces of myself that once defined me so clearly. It’s a confusing and lonely feeling. I find myself unsure of who I am and hence unsure of who is best for me.
All of this sounds terrifying but in the chaos of finals week I have been able to process these and find some conclusions to carry forward into winter quarter. First, a lack of stability will always be scary especially straight out of the structure of high school.
I found that the feeling of existential crisis that came as a result of losing the things that defined me back home. I’ve had to realize that I no longer have to be defined by the version of me that people once knew.
College is a completely new environment and if you can lean into the excitement of discovering who you are now, instead of longing for who you were then, you might just discover some unconventional experiences.
The more I watched my friends post about how much fun they were having the more it made me wonder why I wasn’t finding the same happiness.
When I took a step back and considered what I needed out of friendships I found that I had the pieces that make me happy, I was just too busy comparing them to what makes others happy.
In all honesty, I am not where I thought I would be a year ago, but I’ve learned it’s okay to not know exactly where I am in life. This is the hardest transition of my life so far. I am proud of myself regardless of what expectations I have met.
Grace Timan, 18, from Watsonville, wrote about her senior year at Mount Madonna School last year and will continue to post updates about her transition to UCLA. She plans to major in public affairs with a minor in media literacy. She’s worked at Cafe Rio and Flats Bistro in Aptos and Zelda’s in Capitola.