...great things await you
We leave our adolescence in our high school lockers and sometimes that's a scary thing. You would think high school would never be missed - all the annoying rules and regulations, getting up early every morning, having to deal with teachers and underclassman, having to ask permission to use the restroom. Ugh. High school is just the worst.
Until the realization sets in that you're never going back and you find yourself longing for something you never knew you enjoyed. The routine we can't wait to get rid of is, in hindsight, a very safe place.
Change is scary.
Some will go on to trade schools, some will find work through other means, some will live with and sponge off their parents until they're 50, but the majority of your graduating class will attend some kind of college or university.
It's the first taste of sweet freedom and for some, it's surprisingly bitter.
I was pretty satisfied with my higher education decision. I visited many campuses before I decided to go to a smaller school in Lancaster. I just wasn't into the whole "life on campus" deal. I didn't want to live in a dorm. I didn't want to join a sorority. I didn't want to date a frat guy. I didn't want to play college sports. For some people, that's what it's all about, but I felt like I just came from a "cookie-cutter environment" and I needed a playground for individuality.
I found that in Pennsylvania College of Art and Design. The school was housed downtown in a very industrial-style building. There were about five floors the school utilized and, for me, that was a good fit. It was staffed with creative types from all walks of life. It felt right, it even felt like home. I couldn't wait.
Or could I?
Cue the dramatics.
I thought I was so cool for going to college and moving out of my parents' house, but the truth is, I cried so hard the week before I left, I think my parents had to run the sump pump in the basement.
My excitement turned to fear and I was terrified. It was going to be different and I didn't like it.
After all the rushing of trying to become an adult, I felt myself grasping for the e-brake. I liked my life. My dad paid the bills. My mom did my laundry and fed me. My room was just recently repainted a very nice shade of yellow. I had a cat named Zima. My friends were all minutes away. College? Why would a person do such a thing?
I was in complete shambles. I cried while I packed, I cried on the way there. I cried when I got there. I was much more becoming a yard sprinkler system rather than a college student.
But I sucked it up.
I was set up with a roommate through the college and we got along OK. We were both unique, neither of us were serial killers and we both liked a lot of the same things so it was a decent deal.
The first year, I came home every weekend. It was a two-hour trip, but had it been a six-hour trip, there would have been no difference. I missed my friends. I missed Shamokin. I missed going out the mountains - people who I met in college didn't even really know what that meant. I missed my parents. I missed my room. I missed my life in general.
Eventually, I was doing well in my courses and I made a good handful of friends who were just as silly as I was. My loyalties still were back home with my "real friends," but these friends would do, just to get me through.
Fast forward to present-day, I still talk to most of my college friends on a semi-regular basis. They're all important people in my life. We had a lot of great times and occasionally get together for more.
Anyway, as I got deeper into school, slowly, things started to shift.
I would come home much less often; rather, I'd have my "friends from home," as they were now referred to as, come down and visit me. My parents would visit and we would go out to eat or go shopping.
It was slowly becoming my world instead of a strange world in which I felt displaced.
I learned a lot from my professors, but more importantly, I learned a lot about myself and life as I then knew it.
Some friendly advice:
You may hate it
You may hate it, yes, but it's likely temporary. Change is very scary, but change opens the door to great things. Give it some time. For some, it may honestly not be the right fit and a new plan may be in order, but for most, it's just a matter of getting settled in and getting into your own groove.
Really. The best thing you can do to meet people and establish new friendships is to be yourself. Life seems to align us with those who we mesh well with, so let those friendships be the security blanket you may need until you get over missing home. You don't have to be best friends with these people for life, but companionship and camaraderie will give you as sense of that safe place you're longing for.
You completely owe it to yourself to have fun while you're in college. I don't feel the need to tell you about studying hard and getting good grades, that should be a given, but allow yourself time to unwind.
Whether it's shopping with newly established friends or going on adventures to familiarize yourself with your new surroundings, get your nose out of a book once in a while and enjoy yourself. Your grades are a top priority, but don't punish yourself by studying 24-7; reward yourself for all your hard work.
Things may fall apart
YOLO has a lesser known and far less annoying cousin named FOMO: fear of missing out.
Don't get so wrapped up in what's going on back home with your "real friends" that you lose focus on where you are. Your life back home is always going to be there. Granted, it may not always be the same.
At times in our lives, we come to turning points. Gears shift, things change, people change. Friendships we thought would last a lifetime do not. They change. It kind of sucks, but you'll find that you and some of your friends will go their separate ways and never look back.
But that's OK.
It makes room for new people who, I believe, all come into your life for a reason. It doesn't mean there has to be any ill will involved in letting go of close friendships; it just happens.
Look at you, being an adult
At a certain point, you'll look back to that first week or the time before you left and roll your eyes. It's hard to foresee what's to come when you're filled with uncertainty, but your path will eventually illuminate and you'll find direction as to what's in store for the future. You'll have to make a lot of tough decisions along the way, but you'll make it.
Not unlike college, being an adult is scary. I've kind of gotten the hang of it, but I'm still not sure I'm very good at it. Nevertheless, it's an unavoidable step in an ideal existence.
After all these years, I still miss the comforts of home and high school sometimes, but the feeling of accomplishment I get from utilizing skills I obtained during college to make a living is pretty amazing.
I put growing up into fifth gear during my formative years and in no way could I have prepared myself for the twists and turns that were ahead. If I could give my younger self any advice, it would be to slow down.
Savor the experience of becoming an adult and don't sweat the small stuff. College will help in molding you into the amazing human being you're destined to become. You'll have your triumphs, you'll have your tribulations, but you'll make it.
What feels like an end is only a beginning. You're becoming you and that's a beautiful thing with endless possibilities, so make the most of it.
Great things await you.
(Jenna Wasakoski is an assistant editor at The News-Item. Her column appears weekly.)