We all do it. It’s not considered a surprise for most of us. But despite its commonality, it is still a uniquely individual experience — and an intimidating one at that.

What is it, you may ask? Growing up. It is something that I always looked forward to in some capacity as a child. I wanted to be able to make my own decisions, stay up as late as I wanted and be able to watch that one show because I could. There was this air of glamour associated with being an adult and considering yourself a “grown up,” as depicted in the famed “13 Going on 30.” Jennifer Garner wanted nothing more than to move past the awkwardness of adolescence and suddenly live an established lifestyle. This concept seemed ideal to me in the past, and I genuinely believed that the progression of growing up worked somewhat in this way. I convinced myself that one would move past all of the uncomfortable growing pains and find themselves in a position in which everything had panned out akin to one’s vision.

I am now learning that the movies are unrealistic.

Moving toward the summer, I find myself at a crossroads. I am nearly halfway through college. As of now, I think I know what I want to do, but such is seemingly as subject to change as the weather report on my phone. The past two years have been transformative, but I also feel as though they have gone in the blink of an eye. For me, time feels as though it is moving so quickly that I am barely running fast enough to catch up to it. Fortunately, I know I am not alone.

I am struggling to find a balance between focusing on my future and taking time to live in the moment. I find it difficult to allow myself to de-stress and enjoy this time before responsibilities increase and more is expected, but also focus on what is to come. As a college student on this campus, I feel as though there is such a fixation on the future. This is not a new phenomenon, but rather one accelerated with the onset of the college admissions process. “Taking this class will help you prepare for this test, which will look better for this school,” the story goes. There is this persistent expectation for students in most schooling environments to, at a young age, possess a keen awareness of the “next” thing. With eyes locked on the future, will we fail to enjoy the now?

Will I miss out on an opportunity because I failed to dedicate the extra time to it? Or instead chose to pursue other interests? Can I find a balance between managing my own expectations and still enjoy living in the moment? Am I doing enough or too much?

I do not have the answers. As summer comes, classes end and the next phase begins, I challenge myself to be OK with not knowing all of the answers, but instead knowing that the next thing may not always be what I anticipate it to be.

Recently, someone told me that if they could go back in time and advise a younger self, they would say to not plan life out. As someone who calendars everything, this idea terrified me. When growing up and moving into the next phase or stage of something always seemed like a priority, how could I just not plan? Would it be possible?

Now, I am not saying to completely abandon an idea or plan for what you want and how you envision reaching a goal. If you find yourself in that place, that is amazing. But as I look to the final two years of college, or tackle the sometimes daunting task of applying to more job opportunities, I am going to advise myself to take hold of that notion. Sometimes one cannot plan, or anticipate, even if they believe they are following everything according to the predetermined steps they have laid out.

The secret is that no one person truly has everything figured out. This is something that I have not fully wrapped my head around yet, or accepted in its entirety, but it is true. No one person has all the answers for how we can surpass the difficulties or ensure that we achieve all of the steps we predetermine that we need to take to reach our foreseen goals later on. Despite glamourizing the concept at the beginning, Jennifer Garner’s character realizes this — that growing up is not really as easy as it is depicted to be. I am going to hold on to that, and remind myself sometimes there are growing pains, regardless of age. 

Samantha Szuhaj can be reached at szuhajs@umich.edu.

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