Dear Society: Sheltering Teenagers Helps No One (Thoughts from a College Student)

It’s the oldest story in the world. One day you’re seventeen and planning for someday. And then quietly and without you ever really noticing, someday is today. And that someday is yesterday. And this is your life.”

 –  Nathan Scott

Six months! I would apologize, but this hasn’t even been my longest absence, so I’ll simply repeat my usual promise that I’ll never give up entirely on this blog. It might be a few more months before my next post, but there will always be one.

Today I wanted to discuss what it’s like to grow up as a teenager in today’s society. Why? Because as I approach the hilariously old age of 21, I’m looking back on my teenage years and realizing that, to put it nicely, there are some things seriously wrong with how kids are being raised, both by parents and their school systems.

How, you ask? Well, I should begin by saying I’ve grown up incredibly blessed with a plethora of good fortune. I have two happy and healthy parents who love me endlessly, my family lives comfortably, and I’ve been smart enough to get into college and survive as an engineering major (so far, anyway). A good bulk of teenagers reading this are hopefully lucky in similar senses. So why do I say we’re all getting screwed? Why have I, for years, been so fundamentally unhappy with how I transitioned from childhood to adulthood?

Picture this! Growing up as a teenager twenty or thirty years ago, life was different. Kids got jobs at 16 to maintain their shitty cars. As soon as they could drive, they roamed around and basically came and went from the house. They had to sweat a bit to make ends meet, but by the age of eighteen, they had gotten enough practice living as adults that they were ready to take off the training wheels.

(Or so I hear, anyway. I wasn’t exactly around thirty years ago).

These days—at least with how I was raised—growing up is completely different.

Here’s what inspired this post: today I was sitting in class trying to stay awake when I realized I didn’t have a single idea how to do taxes. TAXES. The only thing you have to do in this world apart from dropping dead.

Rant time: why the hell didn’t any teacher in high school bother to sit down us wide-eyed little 16- and 17-year old selves and say “here’s all the information you need about mortgages and loans and taxes”? Is the point of high school not to prepare kids for the real world? Why is it that I—and every other peer of mine—has reached their twenties without having been taught a single strategy for managing bank accounts or sketching out retirement plans?

BUT THANK THE LORD I KNOW THAT THE MITOCHONDRIA IS THE GODDAMN POWERHOUSE OF THE CELL.

All that being said, I’m not here to rant about being ignorant towards taxes, specifically. One YouTube video can (and will) fix that as soon as I finish this post. Instead, let’s dig deeper.

I earned my driver’s license a few days before senior year and had to wait 42 days before I was allowed to drive. “It’s not you we don’t trust; it’s everyone else.” When I was allowed to drive, it was only a few miles and for short periods of time. I wasn’t allowed to make the commute to my college (which is around 70 miles away) until my junior year at the University, and I also wasn’t allowed to own a car until that point.

And I know what you’re thinking! Hey, why didn’t you just buy your own crappy fixer-upper car with the money you had saved up from your high school job? I would have loved to! Except I wasn’t allowed to have a job in high school. Which, by the way, was uncannily common amongst my other friends as well. Why didn’t I get a job in college? Because I would need a car to get there.

Can you perhaps spot something wrong with this picture? By the time I stepped out of my house to move into my college dorm for the first time, I had still never had a job, never owned nor maintained a vehicle, never had any experience managing finances, and most importantly: I had never been allowed to make my own mistakes.

I’m most certainly not here to criticize how I was raised. I’m thankful every day for my impossibly amazing parents, and I realize that if my biggest problem is them loving me too much, I probably shouldn’t be ranting at all. But I’m going to, because these issues I’m describing are a) much more widespread than my own household, and b) way too important to not talk about.

Our society is screwing teenagers by coddling them. Parents and schools say “oh, we just don’t want you to have to worry about working, or maintaining a car, or being under too much pressure” but that’s the exact stuff that turns kids into adults, man! We have to grow up sometime, and in my opinion, parents and schools of the modern day are shoving fundamental skills aside because, “worry about that when you’re 18.”

In my opinion, when a kid hits 18, they should possess all the life skills needed to be out on their own paying rent, being able to get a job, dealing with crappy cars, and protecting themselves rather than letting others do it.

Now. Do I think it’s a travesty every time a parent sends their kid a care package? Of course not. I love how much my parents and I have stayed in touch and any time they want to help out (such as paying for me filling up the car or sending me pizza money) I’m sincerely grateful. But I wouldn’t blame them in the slightest if they didn’t, because it isn’t their job anymore. And more than anything, I wish I’d been put through the ringer at the age of 16 or 17. I wish I’d been able to own a crappy car that breaks down on me, or had to work at a menial job…hell, I just wish I’d been able to go to a football game without being forced to carry a rain poncho with me.

Because here’s the secret: now, every time I go outside and it looks the slightest bit like rain, I change into my shortest of sleeves and let that glorious downpour soak me to the bone. Why? Because I was never allowed to do that as a kid. At night when it’s freezing out, I’ll sometimes walk around in gym shorts and a t-shirt. Stupid? Yeah. Why do I do it? Because never once was I allowed to be stupid when I was growing up.

Parents—especially the amazing ones, like mine—are so driven to protect their kids from everything. But hardship, and mistakes, and pain…those things shape us to be stronger. And dealing with life experiences (such as jobs and cars) early on can help us teenagers learn how to overcome those challenges for when we’ve truly grown up.

And now here I am—finally filling out my own job applications, driving my own car, managing my own finances—and I couldn’t be happier. But I’ve had to spend a few years playing catch-up, and that was a sincere worry on my shoulders.

In short, to any parents with teenagers: I know how scary it can be letting your kids go, but it has to happen sooner or later. Just be mindful of when they’re really going to become adults, so you can make sure they’re ready to face the world when they step into it.

And high schools? If you’re going to make me sit through a class where I learn how to build a bridge out of popsicle sticks and craft glue, the least you could do is make sure I know what the fuck a FAFSA is.

From High School to College (To All My Twelfth Grade Friends)

“Life is too deep for words, so don’t try to describe it, just live it.”

–  C.S. Lewis

 

If you’ve been reading my blog for at least a year, then you’ll perhaps remember getting a bombardment of posts from me one year ago starting around now. It was my last week of high school, and I took advantage of the craziness to share my thoughts on my favorite high school novels, common hallways behaviors that annoy me, and most of all, what it’s like to move up the grades.

In myfirst post during that famous week—the one on May 13th—I ended it with this:

I’ll close this by saying one last thing. Earlier, I mentioned that I often wonder where I’ll be in the future. So I think I’ll take this opportunity to do it again, on my blog this time: I wonder where I’ll be a year from now. One year today, on May 13th.

Hey look! It’s been a year already!

But more than that, I’ve been hearing a lot of current seniors start to reflect on what it’s like to leave high school, to grow up and make that transition to college. Well, for anyone wondering what that feels like, I’ll do my best to lay it all out.

To my awesome twelfth grade friends:

One year ago today, I was where you are now. I was beginning the end of my high school career. I was absolutely full of excitement, because I only had seven days left in this hellhole known as twelfth grade, and I knew exactly where I was going to college, and I was so ready to get out of here and have the best summer ever and go off to a new place to make new memories.

But, I was also scared.

Not at this point, so much. I was scared of what it’d be like to say goodbye to everyone, but it wasn’t time for that yet. I still had the summer.

The last week of high school is going to feel exactly how you think it will. It’ll be full of wrap-ups in your classes, early grade closings, and perhaps last-minute projects from your crueler teachers. Your lack of motivation to do these projects will be spectacular.

When that last day finally comes, you’re going to be in shock. At first, you’ll be surprised how normal the day seems. You walk through the front doors like usual, meet up with your friends like any other day, and go to your classes.

But then the goodbyes kick in. You have to look at the classmates who you’ve sat with this whole year or maybe more, and tell them goodbye permanently. No, “see you in the halls next year.”

The close friends? Those goodbyes aren’t rough, not yet. You’re going to see them this summer! You can hang out whenever you want! The worst kind of goodbye is that kid who’s been your lab partner all year who still has a few years of high school left. Or your chorus classmates who are still underclassmen. All those people who you’re friendly with, but you aren’t close enough to see each other outside of school.

The last day of high school goes on, and you find yourself more and more in shock. You’re really leaving this place. This is the last time you’ll hear the school bell, or jam yourself through the hallway.

Before you know it, the final bell rings, and that’s it. You’re done with high school forever. And now is when the feels really kick in.

For me, the trigger was saying goodbye to my favorite teacher, who had constantly been there for me since literally day one in the building. Holy crap, was day one really four YEARS ago? It seems like just yesterday you were a scared freshman sitting in advisory trying to look like you couldn’t care less about fitting in, when really it was the most important thing in the world.

But! Good news: your feels dissolve at the first grad practice. Tedious rehearsals have a way of igniting your for-the-love-of-Jesus-get-me-the-hell-out-of-here mentality. That mentality persists all the way until you walk across the stage and get handed your diploma.

Senior week will perhaps become the best week of your life. It was for me, at least. My friends and I opted for an alcohol-free beach trip that still has some of my favorite memories. It’s certainly worth celebrating: you’re done with high school! Finally!

The summer after high school goes exactly how you think it will. You hang out with your friends more than you ever have before, because you know you don’t have much time left. There’s a ticking clock, and it feels like it keeps ticking faster.

Around the end of July, you start to realize how little time is left. Your parents keep nagging you about shopping for dorm supplies. You’ve met your future roommates, or perhaps you already knew them. And eventually—sooner than you wanted—your friends start leaving.

Most of the goodbyes are simple, unexpected; platonic, even. “We’ll video chat every week, right?”

But there’s always those one or two goodbyes that you’ve been dreading all summer, those one or two people who have been your lifeline for years and who you can’t even imagine living without seeing or talking to every single day.

Seniors, I’m here to tell you those goodbyes will be every bit as painful as you’re imagining them to be. You’ll hang out with those special people one last time. Pretend you don’t have to say goodbye. But then you will, and you’ll watch them drive away one last time, then you’ll go to your room and realize that for all of your wanting to leave high school, you never appreciated just how much you had while you were there.

Perhaps that painful goodbye is someone who’s more than a friend. Maybe it’s the person who you met and instantly clicked with, and you just wonder how you can meet someone who’s so right for you, then be forced to leave them behind.

I know that feeling, because I had it last summer. I had a perfect girlfriend, one who I got a crush on the second day of ninth grade but only had the opportunity to date for the last six months of it. And I had to make that painful goodbye, since she—in what I later realized was the smartest move ever—opted to not try the long distance thing.

That goodbye feeling is indescribable.

And finally, before you know it, it’s your turn to go. And you do. And that’s that.

Seniors, college is everything you’re imagining it to be. And it’s also a place where everything you imagined happens in a completely unexpected way. You make new friends who you didn’t think existed. You keep in touch with the old ones.

Some of the olds ones change for the worse, exactly like you’re afraid they will. And you stop talking to them. And you let them go, even though that was the thing you were afraid of doing the most.

And afterwards, you’re okay.

I say all of this because I experienced every bit of it. I had that amazing Senior week. I made those painful goodbyes. I met those new friends. And I let go of several old ones, people who changed so much that I didn’t even know who they were anymore. And it was so much easier than I’d imagined.

And now I’m here. It’s my last week of my freshman year of college, everyone. And it’s been the best school year of my life. Yes, there have been a few rough patches. But I’ve had so many good times and so many new friends. And you have to trust that you will too, even if it means parting with the people who you don’t think you can live without.

Because you can. I promise.

To all of my friends about to graduate high school: live it up now and never forget how good this part of your life is. And have that best summer ever. And believe that you’re moving on to amazing things, because you are.

Trust me, I know.

To My Former GIS Classmates

Well, hey, my awesome former classmates. I hope you’re all doing well. I expect you’re probably doing better than you were a year ago around this time. Because I’m not sure if anyone else remembers, but a year ago tomorrow, we all had to present our capstone projects. Some of us even had to miss pi day in Mr. S’s room.

Oh yeah, those pesky capstones. How could we forget about them?

I’m sure every one of you remembers all the stress we went through. Not just with the final projects, but for each of those four years of high school. There were countless days when we were told of changes we hadn’t been expecting; things like curriculum adjustments or new expectations or just straight-up blanket sweeps that seemed like they couldn’t get any more irritating. Until they did.

Annnd there was this.

Annnd there was this.

Yeah, we had a hell of an experience those four years of high school. And when it was time to leave, that made graduation all the more exciting. Think about that last day for a minute, even though it was ten (TEN!) months ago. Those nineteen of us; we got to leave behind a lot more than just the lunchroom or lockers or the school bus. We also said goodbye to all the growing pains of our guinea pig program, and the stress of our final reports, and all of the things that made us want to rip our hair out or rant on Twitter at midnight.

But, we also said goodbye to each other.

And that’s good, right? You’re supposed to move on when you leave high school. Everyone’s gone off to different schools, some of them in new states or even new time zones. We’ve made new friends and new second-families. But there are some things that just can’t top the experiences you have together in high school.

Things like, wishing a certain member of our class “Happy Birthday!” on a daily basis. Or watching SNL weekend update together. Or our teacher’s hilarious stories of crazy adventures involving fish. Or our government teacher scaring us with his loud voice. Or going on an awesome trip to Boston and getting stuck in the sketchy part at 11 PM because the bus got a flat tire.

That last one sucked, right?

But it was an experience, and if there’s one thing we all can say about GIS now that it’s over, it’s this: we had some experiences. Lots of bad ones, and lots of good ones. And no matter how many crappy days we had, I wouldn’t change a minute of it (okay, mostly) because it was our worst days that made the nineteen of us a family. And it was our good days that reminded us why we all chose GIS, and why we all stuck it out. Everyone has to have a reason for staying, right? What was yours? Why did you keep in the program for all four years, after countless growing pains that only seemed to get worse?

I don’t know anyone’s answer, but I would hope it’s about the same as my own: I stayed in it for the experiences. Not just the New York or Boston trips, or the iPads, nice as those were. I did it because no two days in GIS were alike. One day, we’re sitting in class mapping out a trip to Boston. Another, most of the class is crying because we’re so stressed out. Our eleventh grade English teacher divided up the days evenly so half the time we were dying over her hilarious stories and the other half we were dying for real because we had to analyze some rhetorically significant essay or another.

Was all of it fun? No. Was all of it painful? Of course not. There was a lot of both, but the one thing that never changed in those four years is, the nineteen of us went through all of that as a class.

That’s why I stayed in.

There were many times I considered quitting. I’m sure each of you had those moments too, probably on the bad days. But, we also had good days. Like when we had a “sharing of food” party on Groundhog Day freshman year. Or our eleventh grade English teacher reading us “Walter the Farting Dog” the day before the AP exam while we sat criss-cross applesauce. Or that last day of high school, when we watched our GIS slideshow and told each other goodbye and gathered around our fifth period teacher for a few last good stories.

gispic

But enough of my reminiscing. The real reason I’m writing this note now is because (as I said) it’s been a year since the most stressful day in that program, and now, it’s all over. And we’ve all moved on to new places. But I think it’s important to let all of you know that I haven’t forgotten any of it. Not the good experiences, and not the bad ones. And I won’t ever.

Will the nineteen of us ever be in the same room again? God, I hope so. If we all did some GIS reunion party at someone’s house this summer, that would pretty much be the coolest thing ever. But if not, and we’re never all together again to drive each other crazy, I want every one of you to know that I still miss you all. Even though I love where I am now and have a bunch of amazing new friends, I still want the best for all of you and hope you’re loving college as much as I am.

No matter what happens now or where I go from here, the nineteen of you are and will always be my first academic family. And that’s something I’ll never forget.

After everything we made it through, how could I?

On Being a Freshman: High School vs. College

“Before you ask which way to go, remember where you’ve been.”

–  All Time Low, “Stay Awake”

 

Surprise! Just because I’ve been in college for almost a week doesn’t mean I’ve completely forsaken my blog. Only partially. I can already tell that I’ll be blogging less, but I most definitely will keep at it.

I’m sure there are at least a few readers who want the rundown of how I’m settling in, so I’ll give the quick version: everything here is great. My dorm is exactly the kind of place I want to be living in, and my roommates (I have three of them) are all seriously fantastic. Classes have just started up, and I’m busy, but even the homework doesn’t seem that bad. If I have trouble understanding a concept, my roommates and I study together. We coordinate where and when to go to eat, and let me tell you, the food is amazing. In fact, I have a separate post in mind to outline my college diet, because it’s worth sharing.

But! Right now I want to talk about a very general concept, which I wasn’t really smart enough to discuss before, but I think I am now: being a Freshman.

I say that I wasn’t smart enough to talk about it beforehand because I think you need to be a Freshman at least twice before you can get a good grasp of what it’s like. When you first start high school, everything hits you. The sense of being out of place, adjusting to the norms, and of course meeting new people.

That’s all there in college, trust me. But it’s a lot different.

In high school, for one thing, you’re still probably working on the whole self-confidence thing, and you think that if you aren’t sure where to go or what to do, you’re the stupid one. When in fact chances are, there are probably a lot other people with the same question.

By college, you’ve most likely learned enough to know to ask questions. You realize that a lot of your classmates are on the same page as you, and that if you aren’t sure where to go or what to do, it’s no big deal because a lot of other people are on the same boat. I know for me personally, that’s how it’s been. If I get lost, I don’t get nervous or freaked out. I just treat it like an adventure, find people who are lost too, and we figure it out together.

Second of all, adjusting to norms. Again, different than high school. In high school, I was crazy stressed trying to learn all the rules like where the busses parked, how hall passes worked and why you needed one, what you were allowed to do, and what you weren’t. College isn’t like that at all. I don’t know if that’s because I personally have become more relaxed since I was fourteen, or else because I’m more comfortable in unfamiliar situations.

But honestly, I know that as long as I don’t do anything illegal, then whatever problems that come up can be dealt with. If I go somewhere I’m not supposed to, people will tell me. Maybe even yell at me. But by now, I realize the concept of understandable mistakes. And more importantly, I’m in a place where they’re more forgivable. Let’s face it: in high school, it’s ridiculous how many rules there are. Most of them make sense, but there’s a few eye-rollers in the mix. Things like needing a signed paper to walk ten feet to the bathroom, or not being allowed to pull out your phone for something as small as checking the time.

In college, it’s more my kind of rules. Don’t threaten anyone, don’t do anything illegal, don’t drink, etc. I’m a full believer in taking responsibility for your own life. If you want to skip class to walk around for forty-five minutes, I don’t understand why anyone should stop you. I’m the kind of kid who never shows any work on homework unless it benefits me personally. If I can solve a math problem in my head without writing anything—which, quite often, I can—then I usually just write the answer and box it. That’s what the real world cares about, right? Solving problems?

That’s what college is like. It’s about “here’s what you need to do, get it done however you want.” I love that.

And, the final (but most important) difference: meeting new people, high school vs. college.

A lot of it is the same. There’s that same sense of picking a few people you already know and using them as anchors while you slowly-but-surely branch out. The same feeling of meeting a person, getting a feel for what they’re like, and forming a loose group.

The other night, my college had a dance party on the front lawn of campus. I went with a few high school friends, and we immediately met six new freshmen and formed a loose group. By the end of the night, we were all Facebook friends and talking to each other. That was one night, and that could very well become my central group of friends for the next four years. Only it probably won’t, because there have already been two more groups since then, with the same results.

I guess that’s the real difference. In high school, everyone is pretty nervous, and you slowly make friends. In college, everyone is primed to start up entirely new friendship groups. It’s considered normal to just walk up to someone, shake their hand, and strike up a conversation. Everyone does it. The other night, at said dance party, I became separated from my friend group. I was standing there texting and saw another kid standing by himself, too. So, I immediately walked up to him, held out my hand, and introduced myself. Then I held up my smartphone and asked if it would be okay to add him on Facebook. He said absolutely, and now we’re great friends. Simple.

One example in dozens, and that’s just with me personally. This place has an AIR of forming new relationships. In high school, the environment is a steady dose of nerves mixed with a dash of trying to fit in. You have to struggle not to conform to standards, but at the same time, you don’t want to stand out TOO much. In college, it’s the exact opposite. There are no standards. You just be you. And I think that’s so valuable, being allowed to remember where you came from, because that determines where you go from here. And what kind of people you decide hang out with.

So that’s one piece of advice I would give to high school freshman, though it’s much easier for me than for you: if you want to be the happiest person in the world, then just act like the kind of person you want to make friends with. If you hate drinking, say so! I’ve said so every day since I got here. And guess what? A lot of my friends hate it too. A few don’t. But that’s still okay, because even the people who I know that drink, don’t care that I don’t. In fact, they respect it.

And I’d say that’s a pretty darn important difference between high school and college.

So, bottom line: no matter where you’re starting school, just remember that everyone is as nervous as you, and that even if you think you’re alone, you aren’t. There are people out there with the same interests as you, who think the same and act the same and have the same definition of fun.

Go find them.

Before I Go (On Goodbyes, Part 2)

“There are reasons we met, reasons for the good and the bad times, and more importantly, a reason to end. We have more to learn, more to experience, and more loving left in this lifetime.”

–  Unknown

 

Hi there, people I haven’t blogged to in a week! To be honest, I haven’t given a second’s thought to blogging since this past Sunday. That’s mostly because of packing for college, finishing a manuscript, saying goodbye to my friends as they leave, and basically setting up my life for moving into college. So I haven’t had much time for WordPress.

Speaking of college: I go there tomorrow. As in, move out of my house and into my dorm.

Except I’m posting this in the morning, so it’s really TODAY, even though I wrote this Friday night.

Wrapping up my life here hasn’t really gone like I thought it would. For one thing, I didn’t anticipate how busy I’d be. I mean, I knew I’d be swamped, but not all day, every day for my last week here. Today was the busiest of them all, but I got everything done.

Another thing that really struck me is how calm I’ve been about it all.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of emotional ups and downs these past few days. I go from being happy to sad to indifferent in about an hour, and I’ve had arguments with a few people I really care about, including my parents and my best friend.

But the actual goodbyes have been calm. One by one, I’ve seen each of my close friends for the last time, and there haven’t been any tears, drama, or regrets. It’s mostly been, “well, I’ll see you for Thanksgiving; until then, keep in touch and stay the same!”

That’s the gist of it, anyway.

A few exceptions to that. One was my girlfriend, who I already mentioned. That hurt a lot more and took a day or two to get over, but now, we’re all adjusted. I went over to her house after we broke up, the day before she left for college, and we had a fun talk.

The other exception is one I had about four hours ago, when I said goodbye to my best friend. I’ve only really been close friends with him for the past year or so, but it’s been a busy year. We’ve talked a lot about school, growing up and that sort of fun stuff, and the more guy-oriented topics like girls and all that. A few of those talks have been the 2 AM types, which I think are the real kind.

Today was the more fun kind of goodbye, running around the neighborhood and of course, talking. It’s funny how in a lot of cases, that’s all you need. And when we said bye, no, it wasn’t emotional or anything like that. Mostly a “see ya,” same as the rest. But the difference with this was how fun it was, not to mention that it was the last of my goodbyes before I go. It was the perfect way to end summer and have a final social event before I go off to college.

You’d think I’d be all broken up about it, right? After all, I was on a severe emotional low on my last day of high school. But I think the difference is that the end of high school is something definitive. No going back. With friends, you can always text or call them. It might get harder as years go by, but you still can.

So, that makes this my big emotional post the night before I start the rest of my life, right?

I don’t mean to disappoint you, but I’m really not that fussed about all of this. Like I said, I’m surprised how tear-free all of this leaving has been, and still is. Maybe it’ll hit me in a week or two and I’ll break down into a huge emotional wreck on my way to Calc.

But. Probably not.

Honestly, right now, everything’s happening way too fast for me to take any of it in. And I’m at the point where I can’t even imagine what my life will be like three days from now, let alone a week or a month or a year, like I used to. A year ago, around the time I started this blog, I had a pretty good idea that I’d be going to college right now. And I knew it would be busy. But did I know I would date the girl of my dreams, then have to break up with her? Or make a really awesome new best friend? Or get a full request from a literary agent?

No. I didn’t.

That makes me both excited and nervous for what life will be like one year from now, or even one month from now. I want to go to college and have fun, but I don’t want to get sucked into anything and come out a different person. I love who I am, and more importantly, I love who my friends are. And if there’s one thing I’m really scared about, it’s that I’ll come home and find that they’re different.

But I don’t have time to worry about that now. Right now, I have to worry about settling into my dorm, and getting along with my roommates, and finding my way around campus. And I’m not really saying goodbye to the friends I have here. Just knocking them down one priority notch for a few months.

So, to wrap it up before my last night in my own bed (for a while): thank you to everyone who’s gotten me here, but especially to the people I love. My amazing family, all my friends, my still-awesome ex-girlfriend, and my best friend who I really hope will keep that title for a good long time. You all have gotten me to this spectacular point in my life, and I’m ready to make the most of it.

Here I go.

On Goodbyes, Part 1

“Never forget me, because if I thought you would, I’d never leave.”

–  A.A. Milne

 

As usual, there’s a reason for my blogging absence—college prep stuff has hit me like a tidal wave. “College Prep” stuff really falls into three categories: taking care of the final paperwork/payment jazz, packing and buying everything I’ll need to take with me, and saying goodbye to most of the people who pretty much make up my life.

I’ll blog soon about college packing, because that’s an interesting endeavor. But for now, I just wanted to write the first of what I suspect will be two or three posts about saying goodbye. I know I’ve touched on this subject before, but here’s a full, concentrated nostalgia burst.

Let’s begin!

I’m about halfway through my goodbyes right now. The first one came at the very end of July, when I had to make what will probably end up being the hardest one: my girlfriend.

To be technical, she isn’t my girlfriend anymore. She left for a college trip at the end of July. Then she planned to be back for one day and  head up to college for good in mid-August. So, we decided it would be best to break up before she headed off on her trip, so that we could divvy up the break-up and goodbye portions rather than doing them both at once.

I’m surprised at how many people were shocked to hear we were breaking up. A lot of my friends said the same thing…“Why would you plan a day to split up? Why not try to stay together then see where it goes?”

That was my initial attitude, but luckily my former girlfriend was the smart one of the relationship and maintained that we didn’t want to start off college trying to keep it going. Especially when we’d only see each other once every few months. Speaking from a few weeks later, I can tell you it was the right decision.

We spent our entire last day together, doing everything from seeing the new X-Men movie to walking around the local town square to watching Harry Potter to seeing the sunset at a beach boardwalk. And of course, what would complete the day but a midnight trip to Ihop?

After that, we drove back to her house and said goodbye. It kind of sucked, though she was more worried about me being able to drive home safely in my semi-shocked state. I promised to text her when I got home, which for me meant sending her this picture:

Becky's not even hot.

Becky’s not even hot.

Anyway. I’m not here to describe the details of my relationship, nor its especially clean end. Rather, I’m going to re-iterate something I briefly described in a post the night before I turned eighteen. I defer to childhood me:

“Here’s the thing. There’s no such thing as a definitive goodbye anymore. When you say bye to someone who’s leaving, you’re still going to stay connected on Facebook, and Twitter, and maybe they’ll even visit occasionally.

To use an example: when you say goodbye to your friends before going off to college, it isn’t a definitive goodbye. You’ll still see them during the holidays, and you’ll text them, etc. Let’s agree that the reason we say goodbye is because the WAY we see them is about to change. Instead of hanging out every day, you’ll hang out a few times a year. Less and less as time goes by, and eventually, you’ll stop. Then you realize you don’t really miss them anymore. And you wonder what even happened when you weren’t looking.”

I think that’s a good starting point for my ‘goodbye’ posts. There are two main reasons I’m sad to leave people behind. The first is because I’m going to miss spending time with them, and talking to them, and doing fun things with them.

But the second reason is really why it’s so hard. That being, I’m scared to death that my friends are going to forget about me.

Not entirely, of course. But they’ll move on, make new friends, and I’ll just be a set of old memories. See, I’m not worried about it happening the other way around. I’m quite confident that I’ll still hold onto my friends when I leave, and that I won’t entirely move on from them. It’s just that, I’m afraid they’ll move on from me.

Believe it or not, I’m an optimist. And I think that college is no excuse to really say goodbye to your friends. Think about it: we’re in school from end of August to end of November (three months’ wait). Then we go back; home by mid-December (three weeks’ wait). Then we get to see each other until school starts again in February; home for spring break (six weeks’ wait). Then we go back; home by mid-May (eight weeks’ wait). And at that point, we have a whole new summer to see each other again.

So yes, I’m willing to hold on to my friends, accepting the fact that it’ll be a little different but that we’ll still get to see each other. And I just really hope, pray, that when we do, it’ll be like old times.

I really do hope my friends are willing to hold onto this. I understand that I’m going to meet a whole new set of people up at college, and I’m going to love them, too. But I promise myself—publicly, now, so I can’t back out—to never let go of my old friends. To always be available to text or talk to them, just like I am now. And to hang out whenever I’m home.

Just like everything used to be, except with a lot more stories to tell each other.

On Freshman Orientation

“I’ve always heard every ending is also a beginning…we just don’t know it at the time. I’d like to believe that’s true.”

–  Emily Prentiss’s final words

 

For anyone who enjoys my “life is complicated, here are my thoughts” articles, this should be a good one. I hope so, seeing as it’s my 100th post.

About three weeks ago, I had my college freshman orientation day. I promise to write about that in a second, but first I’d like to talk about my high school orientation day. For anyone in or about to enter high school, I think you’ll find the comparison to be a nice level of extreme.

 

On High School Freshman Orientation:

What a day this was! As soon as I walked into the auditorium, I saw hundreds of bright faces. A crowd of people I knew immediately motioned for me to join them, and I nervously sat with them as we took a tour of our future educational institution. I made at least ten new friends and couldn’t have been more excited for Freshman year.

Oh, wouldn’t that have been nice.

Okay, here’s how it really went: I walked into the auditorium and didn’t know a single person. I’m socially awkward as is. Throw in the decision of making me sit next to a stranger, and you might as well shoot my social life in the chest. But, I had to do it, so I found an empty seat and sat there, scrolling through my phone in an attempt to look busy.

And I know what you’re thinking: why didn’t you just start talking to people?

At that point, shyness wasn’t the barrier. I was willing to put myself out there to make friends. Problem is, the people around me were already talking, and they didn’t sound like the kind I wanted to make friends with. A few of them were planning to get drunk afterwards (these were fourteen year olds, mind you) and a few others were yelling things so pointless that I could actually feel my brain cells dropping dead one at a time. One of such kids is someone who I recognized because he used to pick on me in third grade. He posted something on Twitter a week before graduation that I think is worth sharing:

The irony of this is stunning.

The irony of this is stunning.

Anyway. Orientation. I got herded into my group, and a few current sophomores at the school gave us a tour of the building. I’m not joking when I say that people needed maps to find their way around to all the classrooms.

Then we were ushered into the cafeteria, where we had pizza before being released. This was two days before the first day of high school, and it was turning out exactly like I’d expected.

A few comments on that. First of all, keep in mind I was coming from a small private school to a huge public school where I didn’t know a single person. And second of all, I’d like to highlight something for anyone about to start high school: don’t judge the entire student population by the first people you meet. If you do that, you aren’t going to be a happy camper. It took up until I walked into my Honors English class to start making friends. And those friends are the ones I still hang out with today. They’re the 9’s and 10’s on the morality spectrum of high schoolers, the ones who help make fun of the kinds of kids who were sitting next to me in that auditorium.

So I guess my point, however backwards, is this: don’t expect high school orientation to be fun. It’s not representative of what kinds of kids you’ll meet, and certainly not a good way to judge high school overall.

Someone should really fix that.

 

On College Freshman Orientation:

Ah, the real part of the post. This is a bit of a different picture to paint.

There are some things that are the same for all orientations. The feeling of not knowing anyone, the social awkwardness, the focus on making a good first impression…all of those were there for my college orientation. But that’s where the comparison stops.

They grouped us alphabetically to certain tables, just in case you thought you were safe by showing up with someone you knew. I was at a table with around ten other people. At first, we all kept to ourselves, scrolling through our phones. Then one girl looked up and said, “So…anyone have anything interesting to say?”

The words came shooting out of my mouth:

“Lobsters pee out of their eyes!”

Oh yes I did. OH YES I DID.

The entire group burst out laughing. Some more than others, but it was enough to put me in a permanently good mood. I asked everyone if I should wear my name tag, and two other kids agreed to do it if I would too. By almost-lunchtime, I was already friends with a handful of people, especially the girl who’d first talked at the table.

She and I sat together for lunch, then we made friends with another girl and another guy. The four of us went to the bookstore together, bought school t-shirts, and of course friended each other on Facebook.

Yes, there is a point to this story.

When it came time to schedule classes at the end of the day, the four of us arranged to have classes together as much as possible. Our days were going to be busy, but fun too. We listened to a lady tell us how you should study two hours outside of class for every hour in class. We heard schpeels about all the concerts on campus, and the comedians that visited, and the different activities.

On the drive home, I realized two things:

  1. I’d completely forgotten to get my student ID, which was pretty much the only job I’d had.
  2. More importantly: I realized that throughout the entire day, I’d hung out with people I’d known for four hours, the same way I’d hang out with my friends I’ve known for four years.

THAT’S my point of this article. Orientation did its job, for once, because it made me realize how different of a world college is. And, on a sadder note, it made me realize how quickly I’m going to move on from all the friends who pretty much make up my life right now. A month ago, I thought I’d be the one college kid who kept super close ties to all of his high school friends. But now, I don’t want to be that kid. Because while I don’t yet love my new college friends as much as I love my high school ones, I think I can get there pretty easily.

How does that make me feel about college? Well, excited, obviously. And sad, too.

I used to think I’d be sad because I missed my friends. But now I’m realizing that I’m going to be sad about not missing them. It’s weird to think that I’m ready to replace my current ones with people I haven’t even met yet.

And yes, I used the word ‘replace’ intentionally. Don’t get me wrong, I’m never going to stop caring about the friends I have now. For the rest of my life, I’m going to love them as much as I love them now. But there are so many memories I have left to make in so many new places. And yeah, it’s weird to think about making those memories with new people. Am I ready for that? No, not yet. I haven’t said goodbye to everyone. But will I be ready when the time comes?

I think so.