(inner monologue from a composite of pre-college adolescents)
Dear Mom & Dad, I’m really struggling here; I’m pretending as if I have it all together, but I’m freaking out a little bit, no, I’M FREAKING OUT BIG TIME.
For so long it’s been drilled into my head that I’m going to college right after graduating from high school.
Not only have you expected me to go, everyone at school keeps pestering me about it — my teachers, friends, counselors, and coaches.
If I hear the questions, “Where are you going to college?” or “What do you want to do when you finish college?” one more time, I think I’ll stab myself in my left eyeball, or better yet, just fling myself out of a window.
NO, I DON’T KNOW WHICH COLLEGE I WANT TO ATTEND! AND, NO, I DON’T KNOW WHAT I WANT TO DO WHEN I FINISH!
Just kidding about the eyeball stab and window diving. I love me some me, and I’d never hurt myself over this. I’m just so…SO…
How can I know that? I don’t know what I want yet, hell, I don’t even know who I want to be and all of you are all over me to figure out what college I want to go to.
I suppose you all mean well; you want me to be successful and all, but who says that college is the only way to make that happen? And, who says I have to go NOW?
I’ve heard over and over again stats and quotes from famous people about the importance of getting an education. I get it. I love learning. But, who says it HAS to be via college, right now?
I could work for a while, or I could travel, or I could, I don’t know, do something other than college that would help me figure some stuff out first.
Believe me, I want to get ALL caught up in your excitement for me, but deep down inside I am just sad, confused, worried, a little angry, and very frustrated.
I really don’t know what I want.
The last thing I want to do is disappoint you, so I’ve been going along with all of your pushing and pulling and asking and prodding. I’ve been putting on a happy face for you.
What I really want is to escape, climb a mountain somewhere, scream at the top of my lungs and just hang out for a while.
I wish all of you would just STOP and ASK me what I want, and then really LISTEN. Actually, don’t just ask me what I want, help me figure it out before prescribing college as the end all, be all solution.
COLLEGE. COLLEGE. COLLEGE.
I know college is supposed to be a continuation of my education on the way to some glorious life. I get to pick a major. I get to pick a path to follow. I get to learn how to be a good student. And, I get to extend my adolescence for a few years, YAY. Then, I get the good (great) job that pays the good (great) salary, AND the enviable life where I accumulate amazingly cool stuff. Something we can all be proud of and brag about, right?
Only, that’s not happening to a lot of college students when they graduate. Their stress just continues…
Oh, and I suppose after I finish college and get that good (great) job and enviable life, you’ll be on my back about marriage, a family, and who knows what else.
I AM SO TIRED OF LIVING UP TO EVERYONE ELSE’S EXPECTATIONS OF WHO THEY THINK I SHOULD BE AND WHAT THEY THINK I SHOULD DO.
Don’t I have a say in all of this? I damn well should, it’s my life! Isn’t it???
There are times where I just want to run away and hide while I figure all of this out.
Right now I want to cry so bad just for a release, but you’ll probably ask me what I’m crying about, that I shouldn’t be crying, and how great my life is. Plus, I bet that would make me appear weak and the last thing in the world I need is to be perceived as weak.
I want you to know that I am strong and that I will be successful.
But, that doesn’t change how shitty I’ve been feeling. I just want someone to listen to me and help me sift and sort through all of this clutter. I feel as if I’m sitting on this big ol’ pile of crap that I’m expected to sort through RIGHT NOW so I can give you, y’all, the world an answer about the rest of my life.
Maybe after taking some time to think through all of this without anyone breathing down my neck, I’ll decide if college is for me, and if it is, is it for me right now. And then, maybe I’ll decide what I am interested in studying. But, right now, I. JUST. DON’T. KNOW.
I don’t want to visit or tour one more college campus, or fill out one more damn application. I’M SO TIRED OF ALL OF IT.
I bet they’re scamming us anyway. If colleges are institutions of learning where I simply pick a major, attend my classes, learn what I need to learn to do what I want to do, what difference does it make where I go? Isn’t it up to me to decide how engaged I want to be and what I get out of it?
Everyone seems to get all riled up about which college I’m going to attend.
For the last two or three years, I’ve been made painfully aware of magazines like U. S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, Time and others that feature the best schools in the country, across a variety of categories. Another scam, no doubt; every year we buy another bunch of ‘em…keeps them busy publishing more stress-inducing info, and keeps us all twisted up in knots each year over what’s the “best” college to attend.
Not the best one for me, the BEST college.
One of my friends applied to 25 colleges, that’s right, I said 25. She’s so scared of being rejected — so scared out of her mind that no one will pick her that she applied to 25 colleges. Can you believe she’s being praised for this? What a waste of time, energy and money. Makes no sense to me.
If I’m not Harvard or Stanford material, does that make me a loser? NO. There are plenty of douche bags who have gone to Ivy League schools. Yeah, I know all about that path, well, maybe not all about it, but I know it’s a bunch of bulls%$t.
I know enough about the process at this point to have figured out that it really doesn’t matter where I choose to go. Of course, I want to go to a school that has what I need to succeed, but that doesn’t have to be a prestigious school that requires you to sell my oldest sibling and take out a second mortgage on our (your) house.
Yes, I’ve been listening in on your conversations about me and all of this college stuff. I know you’re just as stressed out and worried about how my college education is going to be paid for as you were about my oldest sibling’s college choice, maybe more. She’s even more of a people pleaser than I am, so I don’t even think she wrestled with this. She just did what you all expected, and made everyone happy. I don’t really think she is happy, but that’s her problem to sort through.
Don’t get me wrong, I know all of this takes planning and I guess it is a big deal, but why aren’t we enjoying this process more?
I’m freaking out and you’re stressed out, about what? Over a decision about going to a place I’m not even sure I want to go. And furthermore, I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHY I’M GOING OR WHAT I’M GOING TO DO WHEN I GET THERE. I think I said that already, but I want to yell it again and again.
Visiting all of these college campuses has been SO intimidating.
What if I don’t fit in?
What if I really hate it after getting accepted?
Worse yet, what if no one accepts me?
Everyone’s going to think I’m a stupid loser.
INSIDE I AM SO FRIED.
I just wish someone would see how I’m suffering through this, really talk to me, ask me thought-provoking questions, and listen to me, and help me figure out what REALLY matters TO ME so I can decide with some measure of peace what’s MY best next step.
Not for you. Not for my friends. Not for my boyfriend. Not for the colleges. Not for society. Not for anyone except ME!
I’m SO tired of trying to please everyone. I am SO tired of all of it. It is exhausting.
This is MY life and I just want to make decisions that are going to make me happy, and help me create a life where I can make the kind of contribution that I am really proud of.
My goal is NOT to reach middle age with tons of regrets and a job I hate, and it’s definitely NOT about deferring my happiness until I retire.
I’m young, why do I have to decide right this minute what I’m going to do with the rest of my life?
Why? Why? Why?
Even if I wasn’t young, as long as I’m breathing I’ve got time to make a different choice, right? This makes so much sense to me.
I’ve got my whole life ahead of me and you’re telling me (sometimes yelling at me) that this one decision is either going to send me soaring into big success or it’s going to f#ck up my life forever. That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.
OK, FINE! I’ll make the stupid decision, I’ll go ahead with your plan to go to college, but I know in my gut it’s not the right decision. I need to spend more time figuring out who I am and what I want. I suppose I can do that while I’m in college, but again, what if this isn’t the right decision for me right now?
What a waste of money and time if I don’t like it. Actually, a waste of your money and your time, too!
You’ve encouraged me to think about being some kind of professional (doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc.), but that’s not MY dream, that’s YOUR dream.
I’ve heard you ramble on with your friends and each other about your own regrets. Those are your regrets, not mine. You can’t fix your missed opportunities through me. I’m not you, I don’t think like you or act like you. I’m me and I want to express who I am in all that I do.
I wish we had the kind of relationship where I could really tell you anything. I hear you talking to your friends and all of these people at these colleges where we’ve visited and you seem to pride yourself on having this really great relationship with me.
If that’s the case, why am I SO afraid to tell you what I’m really feeling? Why am I SO afraid to disappoint you? Why am I SO afraid to be me and tell you what I really want to do?
You’ve given me SO much. Please know that I am SO grateful for ALL that you’ve done for me. And, I love you so much!
We have a really sweet life. You made sure we got a good K-12 education. You made sure we lived in a great neighborhood. You made sure we lived in a beautiful home. You’ve pretty much given us everything we could want. Yeah, we gave you a lot of crap over the years about getting certain things that we wanted that our friends had, and mostly, you’ve made sure we got those things, too.
You’ve pretty much done everything for me. As a result, I can’t cook. I’ve never washed my own clothes. I don’t clean. I don’t help with anything around the house, really. And when I do, I make sure I whine and complain so much that you just give in and do it for me.
I’ve never had to pay for anything or worry, really, about anything in my life. You’ve fought most of my battles and protected me from everything and I mean EVERYTHING. You and me, we’re definitely co-dependent. I bet you didn’t think I noticed, did you? I noticed.
Your identity is so tied up with mine. What I do and whether I’m successful or not. If I screw up, you’re going to take on that burden, take the blame for it and/or try to fix it. If I succeed, you’re going to take the credit for it.
I don’t know what that’s all about, but it kinda sucks! Yeah, I go along with it because it makes my life a hell of a lot easier right now, but isn’t that kind of messed up? Won’t that hurt me in the long run?
I wish you both had spent more time preparing me to survive (actually I’d prefer to thrive) on my own. Because you’ve done everything for me, there’s a lot I’m going to struggle with unnecessarily. It seems like it would have been best for me to struggle while in your care versus after the fact when I’m out there on my own.
In the animal kingdom, they teach their young how to survive and not get eaten BEFORE they head out on their own. Why is it backwards for humans?
Because you can’t take the pain of watching me struggle, you do all you can to make sure I don’t. It becomes all about you, not me. I guess I’ll just suck it up and do what you want. It’s really killing me inside, but after all you’ve sacrificed and given me, I guess I owe you.
I hope at some point, I get the courage to stand up for myself and do what I want to do, even if it does disappoint you.
MAYBE I’ll speak up before all of this college stuff happens, but chances are I won’t.
MAYBE I’ll speak up after I start college, then I’ll share my true feelings, but chances are I won’t.
MAYBE I’ll speak up at the beginning of my senior year when I know all of the craziness will start again around what job I want, and what kind of career I’ll choose, but chances are I won’t.
MAYBE I’ll speak up the evening after I graduate from college, when all of the hoopla and excitement around me graduating from college dies down and I’m sitting all alone in my room wondering what next, but chances are I won’t.
LOTS OF OPPORTUNITIES to speak up, but chances are I won’t because through all of this you’re not going to really see me, you’re not going to really hear me, and you’re not going to really be aware of what really matters to me.
You’ll be so proud of me, but we won’t really talk about it, we’ll talk around it.
It seems like what’s most important to you is how what I decide to do at every juncture makes you look. And let’s face it; we’ve got to look good compared to all of the other parents and their kids, right?
I’m not sure if I even want kids, but if I decide that I do, I hope I don’t put them through this.
I hope with all of my heart that I REALLY give them room to explore who they are, who they want to be in the world, their heart’s desires, what they’re good at, what they want to contribute in the world, etc.
And, most of all, I hope I’m really, truly, honestly interested in what is going to make them genuinely happy in their lives, no matter what their choices are. Without judgment or criticism. And, that I am acutely aware that the direction they take in their adult lives are about them, not me.
Because isn’t’ the point of parenthood to provide a safe space for kids to learn what they need to know while lovingly guiding them about how to successfully navigate their lives on their own, their way, their choices, so they can thrive?
As a parent, won’t it be important for me to teach them how to fly and get banged up gracefully while they’re under my wings so they’ll be OK when they have to fly solo with theirs?
I think it will be. After all, it’ll be their lives, right? Not mine.
I’m SO tired of being so damn frustrated…
Robbi Crawford, The Student’s Mentor, Author and Speaker is the founder of BrijBrand. Subscribe below and join the BrijBrand community. We’ll keep you in the loop about what we’re building for YOU, and create a safe place to land when you’re feeling stuck, need a plan, and want some targeted help and genuine support!