I realize that the young/old status entirely depends on your point of view. In terms of the book blogging community, I’m in the upper age bracket at 24. Practically an old woman. But in terms of just about everything else in my life, I’m exceptionally young.
When I was in grade school and high school, there was always a lot of pressure to go to college. Not just from my parents—from everyone. I’m not even sure the decision to go was ever really mine since it had been instilled in me for so long. I’m not saying it was bad advice; the town that I grew up in is small and doesn’t have a lot to offer, so going to college and getting out in the world opens up a lot more opportunities.
But more than the pressure to go, there was pressure to go as soon as I graduated high school. My mom always told me that if I took a year off, I’d probably never go. There might have been some truth to that. Once I get nestled in somewhere, it’s hard for me to do something different. I have a rather intense fear of change.
That’s another reason why I went to college right after graduating high school: I was terrified. I was terrified of not knowing what else I would do, where to go, where I would work or how I would earn money. Your life is pretty much structured for you for the first 18 years while you’re in school. Then suddenly it’s all on you. Most people crave the freedom and count down the days for their graduation, but I dreaded it. I dreaded every day that the date grew closer.
So what did I do? I went to college. But I didn’t even wait until I graduated. Our high school had a program where students could take college classes at the local community college. I felt like that was what was expected of me. The successful students were those who took college classes in high school, so that’s what I did.
Then after graduation, I spent a year finishing up my associate’s degree at the community college, then transferred to a university to get my bachelor’s. It meant moving away from my family, but living in the dorms in a Christian college isn’t quite like living on your own. There’s still a lot of structure. And so I continued being in my safe place of being in a classroom and on a schedule, even though it meant taking out student loans because I didn’t have any money to actually pay for it.
So I spent two years there, got my bachelor’s degree in 2014 before I turned 21, got married that summer, and moved to Rolla with Deacon. I didn’t know what to do with my English degree, so I applied to grad school (back to the safe place). I got my master’s degree right as I turned 23, and got hired on campus as a technical editor a month later.
People look at me and think I’m successful. They look at my age compared to my accomplishments and get ideas that I’m really focused or prestigious or whatever. But it’s none of that. I was just scared. I didn’t know what else to do, and I felt pressure to do everything quickly.
That’s the thing: I regret going to school so quickly. I regret going to school because I didn’t know what else to do. I should have waited and gone when I was passionate about it.
I didn’t enjoy my time living in a college dorm. I was miserable the entire time. And the closer I got to earning my bachelor’s degree, the more numb I felt, like my life was dragging me along. And maybe waiting would have meant that my life would have been messier, but at least I would have felt like I had lived.
So here’s my advice, to anyone who might need it: Don’t make decisions just because they’re what you’re expected to do. Make decisions based on your passions. Step out of your comfort zone, but do so when you feel you can handle it. Don’t rush growing up. Don’t feel like you have to have everything together as soon as you graduate high school. Take time for yourself.
And don’t compare yourself to others.