Future, questions, uncertainty: Seniors face scary reality of growing up

Friday, September 27, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Summer has always been carefree for me. The sun kisses my skin, sweets become even sweeter, sweat goes unnoticed, and of course spending every day with my friends is the best part. But the summer after my junior year was different. Sure, it was still a break from school, but seeing my expectations in comparison to my realizations was like a slap in the face.

Growing up feels like a myth when you’re in the middle of your high school career. College? Adulthood? It’s years away, right? I close my eyes for one second and suddenly I’m graduating in less than a year. And while this sounded like the best thing in the world my freshman through junior years, it became the most terrifying thing in the universe.

Ever since I was a kid, I had my whole life figured out. Make good enough grades to get into the University of Texas, get into the communications program, and then pursue my dream job – journalism. Writing has always been my sunlight, water and oxygen, so journalism seemed perfect for me.

Acceptance into the UT? Piece of cake. But sadly, it ended up being more like a spoonful of vinegar filled with the bitterness of junior year that stuck to the back my throat. To say the least, junior year was a lot more overwhelming than I thought it would be. Physics? Pre-cal? Three AP classes? SAT and ACT exams?
I was suddenly drowning in the pressure of being academically successful, and I couldn’t seem to find a breath of air during the year. Eventually I had to ask myself: did I really want to go through all this just to be in the top 7% of my class in order to be automatically admitted into UT? Did I really want to go through the work involved to get into a good school and become a journalist, or was this just the dream I felt like I needed to achieve since day one?

I became stressed and discouraged. I was always that student who was on top of her schoolwork, but when I thought back on my entire high school career, I realized that every year I slacked off more and more.

So why was I putting myself through those classes? All I wanted to do was become a writer, but did I even want to write for the rest of my life? Was I even good enough to be a successful writer? They say writers don’t make money, and for the most part, it’s true. Did I want to risk getting a degree in something I might not even get a good job in? Luckily my parents, teachers and friends never doubted my ability for one second, but it’s also true when they say that you are your own hardest critic.

This past summer as my friends began writing college essays, applying to different schools, and getting the rest of their lives figured out, I decided it was about time to face reality. I realized that getting into a top-ranked university doesn’t really matter to me, as long as I get some sort of degree.
And that brings up another point – what do I want to do for the rest of my life? After taking journalism for three years (this being my fourth) I thought I fell in love with it. But the more I think about it, the less appealing it sounds as an actual career. Sure, I could find a job as a journalist, but did I really want to write for a small town newspaper, which is most likely where I’d end up?

This summer, I did more creative writing than ever before. It’s what I love the most and I could even see myself improving. I decided: who cares if I have a hard time finding a job with a degree in creative writing? I’d rather live for my passion rather than settle with what I can find a job in.
So after talking to my dad, who has always encouraged me to become any kind of writer, I decided the University of Houston was the place for me. For one thing, I’d much rather live in Houston than in Austin – I’m a lot more familiar with the city. For another, U of H has a great English department, and their creative writing program is one of the best in the country. Lastly, going to U of H means I have automatic acceptance, which is a huge relief after the stress of trying to get into the top 7% of my class to get into UT.

I know one thing for sure – I love to write, and it’s the one thing I’m good at. If I’ve made any self realizations this past summer, it’s that it’s okay to not have the perfect life planned out, and it’s okay to not know what I want to do for the rest of eternity or to not reach the standards I’ve set out for myself since I was a kid. I’ve decided to do what makes me happy, not what makes the rest of the world happy – and to do what I love. I am more than a GPA number or a grade letter. There’s more to life than being successful in a career path.

And most importantly, no matter what happens, life goes on.

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