Mid-college crises are a lot like midlife crises, except that you don’t have enough money to buy anything nice. And if you’re anything like me, your thought process will continue much like this:
I am unsure. I am confused. There is nothing about the future that is certain, especially when I look at my career and field of study. I do not know what I want to do in life. I do not know what path I will be on, what choices I will make, what regrets I will have. There is no concrete, only a turbulence of wisps and whims that surround the unwritten timeline that is my life. And I find this terrifying.
Some college kids know what they want to do. One of my best friends and a classmate of the same age/year is halfway through her first year of medical school; she started in a six-year program to become a doctor as soon as we graduated high school. Another friend has completed three co-ops and will be a pharmacist in two years (also the same age/year as me). I know people who have gotten married, gotten engaged, made major life decisions that I could not fathom making at this age. We’re all twenty. We’re not even legal to drink or rent a car or enter the Pour House after 8pm (so depressing not being able to meet my friends for dinner at 8:07 because my train was late. I’m still upset. Boo.) And we’re making decisions that will affect the rest of our lives. Some college kids are on top of it, can do this. But many of us (like me) can’t. Many of us are stressed and scared and fervently holding on to the remnants of our childhoods because we realize we have no idea what we’re doing. Especially at Northeastern, where a program of coop cycles and career opportunities governs our five (or four or six) years of undergraduate education, students are made to feel like they need to have all of the answers right now, know what they’re going to do for the rest of their lives right now, understand adulthood in this very moment. Not having the answers is not a comfortable option. And even now, as a third-year, I have fear that I’ve already made the wrong decision. That I’m not in the right major, not doing what I want to do, not cut out for this field. Neuroscience is cool, yes. But is it what I want to study for the rest of my life?
I’m currently approaching my last day of my first coop, and I wonder: what will my future self think of my present self? What answers will I hold then that I cannot begin to fathom now? And will it matter?
So I ask my future self: what is the most important decision I will make? Will I make it correctly? Will I be happy? Is happiness my answer and my goal? Is comfort good enough, or do I have it in me to be great? Will my morals ever change, will I redefine to myself later what it means to be a good person? Will I disappoint myself? How will I disappoint myself? Will I do more good than harm in this world? Will I still care?
I currently believe that my future self will look back upon my 20-year-old brain and think wow, she had no idea. And then I’ll think to myself (in the future) that you know, maybe I still don’t have any idea. Maybe I’ll be thirty and married and maybe with kids and maybe a job (let’s hope for that one) and still not have answers. Maybe I’ll be fifty and sending my kids to college and still think, this life thing is just one heck of a roller coaster. And maybe when I’m ninety five on my death bed with no one by my side I’ll think I should have done this differently. And that’s probably the only thing I really fear in this life, finding that my answer is regret and the life I chose to live was a lie. A lie to my bright-eyed, naive, overly-excited and extremely terrified twenty-year-old self who had potential. Had. Because by then, it’ll be too late. My future selves with the power to do something, change something, will all have moved on, will have died as the present and moved back to the past, to a far-off place of memories.
So what to do now? To all you college kids who are as scared as I am of these winding paths that lead into a dark, clouded future and an ultimate termination of existence, breathe. We’re in this together. You’re not the only one without answers and in all likelihood, you won’t be that one who didn’t do anything with your life. I mean, it’s always possible, but that’s usually when friends/family/desperation kick in and then you’re okay. Just don’t do drugs.
But seriously, it’s still your decision. What you do with your life is within your control. I can’t really offer sound advice on what mirrors my own panic, but I can say that we’re still just kids. And however we screw up our lives, it could still be worse. And it’s never too late to change something–just don’t wait till you’re ninety five. And dying.