I graduated high school last week! Haven’t actually attended high school the last two years, but it was a moment all the same. Strutting the stage in black wrap stilettos, shaking my falafel greased hands with the principal, I was handed a cover for my diploma– the first in my family to do so. The first to have avoided expulsion and fertilization. To be done! Officially, wholly, and finally done. No more back to back transfers, no more dealing with the nuances unique to high school and its painfully predictable plot lines. Ya girl was FINITO.
So, what now?
Unfortunately, relief did not ensue graduation. I was (am) unprepared and overwhelmed.
Ya see, I didn’t apply anywhere. Didn’t take my ACTs. Didn’t gather recommendation letters or rack up extra curricular hours. I stopped by my high school every three and half months to get my dual enrollment slip signed, and never looked back. Even when my peers were having panic attacks during their common apps, I managed to retain a false sense of distance. I was– voluntarily– detached from the typical high school experience. A pal of mine was snapchatting me pictures of her prom dress the same time my chem 121 partner was asking if I could get the lab started alone because her kid was sick. Finals week was being surrounded by a bunch of twenty something’s on edge for their philosophy oral exam, rather teenagers amped for grad night.
The program I was in allowed me to knock off two years of college early, but it also made it easier to slack with my high school needs. In my rush to grow up, I neglected the actual process of doing so.
That’s left me with a high school diploma, sixty six college credits, and the slightest semblance of a plan on what to do next.
“Where will you go? What will you do? What do you want to be? How will you do it”
Boy! I don’t even know what I want to look like next week, but at least I can re-dye my hair, take out piercings, and remove makeup. How do people expect an eighteen year old to have a road map for their entire future? How do you go from treating me like a child one day and expecting me to figure out adulthood the very next?
I went from getting my nursing degree in Washington, to wanting to major in criminal justice in Texas, to studying political science in California. The amount of options and resources available to me is not something I legitimately planned for; doing something “big” with my life has never really been an honest dream.
Nothing’s lined up for me and I didn’t come from a family who’s established connections or prestige. Hell, half of them didn’t even expect me to finish high school, not at least without knocking myself up. The “next step” isn’t something I’ve been groomed for my entire life; it wasn’t made to be an obligation as it was a privilege.
Besides this being scared shitless, dealing with stifling familial interrogations and a strategically timed breakup, any excitement for my future keeps being stomped out by comparison– which just spins me into panic mode even more. I mean, people from my graduating class got into Harvard and Duke! My friend snagged her associates degree, and we entered the same program at the same time. Even my ex made me feel like useless shit for not doing “better”. It’s difficult to preserve this feeling good about my future when I see so many other routes I could’ve taken. Even more so knowing it’s due to my lack of applying myself or mixing up my priorities.
Am I/are you really living a shit show? So what if ya stuck at a local campus, or if your pal made it into your dream school? Maybe you have to take a gap year or two to save up, or maybe you know secondary education just ain’t your thing. Maybe you keep switching your major, or maybe you’re sticking with a “useless degree”. Classism and superiority complexes aside– why do we feel embarrassed with our own different definitions for success?
I have had a kick ass last two years. I did almost everything I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it. I may have drained my savings and tanked my GPA in doing so, but not many things, including these, are irreversible. Especially when it’s a matter of my own motivation. If the only thing stopping me from becoming whatever the hell I wanna be, is me? I’m damned lucky.
Community college for a year ain’t a punishment. Establishing residency in Southern California surely isn’t inducing complain. Continuing to pocket a paycheck made from writing is certainly not the worst responsibility to shack up with. I could be doing “better” and I could be doing “worse”, but for now I’m just…a work in progress. Still young, still scared of the Conjuring and filing for taxes.
Maybe I’ll go back to nursing, maybe I’ll run for senator. Maybe I’ll end up dying before doing either! Who knows. We sure as shit don’t. That’s the only certainty for now, and I’ll be damned if I feel ashamed for a universal truth. Everyone is constantly badgering us that this is the perfect time to start messing up, to break up with snobby boys, to switch your studies, bleach your hair.
We aren’t supposed to know what the next decade will hold. Props to those who do, and cheers to those who don’t. As long as you don’t underestimate yourself and the fake bitch that is Life, how badly can you mess up? The way I see it, if my card doesn’t get declined or an anon doesn’t send me an angry ten-part message lecture, nothing is that bad or unrealistic of an idea.
We are work in progresses; cut yourself some slack.