Everyone is afraid of something — even that macho guy who says he isn’t (and it’s usually something harmless like bunnies). According to President Franklin Roosevelt, the only thing we should fear is “fear itself.” You’ve heard it in school and from every adult you’ve ever known. Just conquer your fear and you will be master of your own life, blah blah blah. If you let fear run your life, you are just giving in.
Just because most college students can recite this advice like a Sunday school catechism doesn’t mean that we actually live it. Sure, we don’t stay inside just because we might fall and hit our heads outside — I’m talking about sensible fear, not paranoia. But uncertainty about the future is a different story.
I’m quickly approaching my 20th birthday. And though I never thought of myself as Peter Pan, I find myself dreading my birthday for the first time. Shedding my teenage identity is quite possibly one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. Responsibility and adulthood are staring me in the face, and I’m not ready.
The weird thing about actually being in college is that my path isn’t already laid out for me. Throughout high school, I was focused on graduating and getting into a good college. For most people where I grew up, attending college wasn’t even really a decision. It’s just what happened after high school. Even during high school, I had very few real decisions to make about my education. I took this math class and that English class and followed the logical progression. Nowadays, my parents just look at me blankly when I ask them what they think about my proposed classes for next semester.
I tell people that I am a Political Science major as if I’ve already declared, but I haven’t. I feel like if I declare, I’m accepting the responsibility to actually be an adult some day. Like my reluctance to turn 20, the simple act of declaring represents the inevitable march toward graduation and a real job.
I really don’t know what I want to do with my life. Even a little bit. I could be a lawyer or a politician. Maybe I want to be a speechwriter, or I guess I could be a teacher. Diplomacy has always sounded interesting. Public relations has been thrown on the table. To be honest, if my theoretic table was real, it would probably take up more space than Angell Hall.
To make matters worse, I’m surrounded by examples of people growing up. My best friend’s sister has a job, a house, health insurance and a cat. Patrick Zabawa, a former Daily coworker, now has a real job where he wears dress clothes to work every day — except for casual Fridays — and has the power to fire people. My friends insist on graduating and entering the real world with ridiculous things like jobs and yearly salaries. This should make me feel like I’m being left behind, but instead it just makes me want to fight the inevitable pull out of Neverland into adulthood.
And my advisor emailed me with a gentle reminder to all sophomores that we should be thinking about declaring a major soon. Great.
I have no idea where my life is going, and that’s a scary thought. But I can’t let that fear stop me from actually growing up. I don’t really want to live with my parents forever. One of these days, I’ll have to actually get over this fear and face my future. But for now, I guess I’ll apply to law school. And going to school for the rest of my life isn’t really an option. Theoretically, I want to have a job and a family at some point.
Erika Mayer is an LSA sophomore.