By Anna Wheat
Lately, I feel like I have too many questions and not enough answers. Being 17 is just really weird. You’re so close to technically being an adult, but in so many ways you’re still just a kid trying to get along as best you can with the means available. Planning for your future can be very unnerving, and it’s hard doing this at such a young age, especially if you haven’t gotten the needed amount of support and exposure. I’ve wondered if it is normal to feel this much pressure, or if I’m entering my young adulthood unprepared at my own fault. Like many people my age, I’m looking at colleges, preparing for the ACT, and exploring my career options. Many of us are also involved in extracurriculars and taking rigorous classes. With all of this going on, I’ve found myself struggling to keep up with my own expectations and the standards I’ve set for myself. This has caused me to second-guess myself every time I’m asked the question “What do you want to do after high school?” And the truth is, I don’t know.
I used to think that graduating would solve all my problems and that I just had to get through these four years. I was sorely mistaken. In reality, this is just the beginning of the tumultuous journey called “life.” Although I’m good at getting all As, and I enjoy learning new things, I’m not sure if I’m ready to dedicate myself to a specific career path, because I’m worried I won’t be happy with where I end up. You might be thinking by now, well that’s what college is for, to explore your options and figure yourself out, and that is all true. Nonetheless, there is still a huge pressure put on people my age to know exactly what they’re going to do after graduation. I don’t understand how I’m supposed to make a commitment that could affect the rest of my life when I don’t even understand how credit works. Is it okay to make all these important decisions as a senior? Is there something I should’ve done differently so I wouldn’t have to feel this way? I am aware that changing majors in college is possible, and whatever path I choose isn’t what I have to do forever. Unfortunately, due to financial constraints, not everyone has the luxury of bouncing between areas of study.
I used to think I was alone in these thoughts, but over time I’ve learned, I’m not. Whether or not college is the path they’re considering choosing, a lot of my peers feel this way as well. In fact, when I asked my class who knew exactly what they were going to do after high school, or if they had an idea of what they wanted, only 25% of my classmates said yes. According to Central College, 75% of American students go into their first year of college as undecided majors or end up changing their major at least once. Knowing this statistic, in a way, is very comforting. It may seem inconsequential, but it helps to know that I’m not the only one feeling this way about my future. So, maybe it is okay to feel completely lost and scared of the emerging time to come.
In drawing to a close, I would like to state that this is a time of uncertainty in many young people’s lives, and if any student is reading this, you’re not alone. Everyone, myself included, needs to be reminded of this sometimes. Something I know for sure is that you have to keep an open mind and be ready to take risks. You never know what you might end up doing in the long run! Personally, I believe that trying your hardest at something and experiencing a lack of success is a lot better than just not trying at all, or completely giving up. Being able to forgive yourself after not reaching your expectations is extremely important, but can also be incredibly difficult. Yet, you cannot move forward with your life if you’re too scared that you’ll suffer defeat, and you shouldn’t constantly beat yourself up if you “make the wrong choice.” I thought long and hard about how I could come up with a solid solution to make these fears and feelings of uncertainty dissipate, but as expected, I couldn’t. My final conclusions are that sometimes, all you can do is be patient with yourself. Keep in mind that you grow and learn more and more every day, increasing your self-awareness. Don’t let societal pressures rule your decision-making, take life one step at a time, and most importantly, be kind to yourself.
Anna Wheat is a student at Mabel-Canton High School. She is one of 17 area students participating in the Journal Writing Project, now in its 24th year.
Sandra Webb says
You hit on a universal question. Teenager or adult, everyone grapples at some level with discovering a sense of purpose. All the questions raised in the beginning make the reader ready for that wise conclusion: keep an open mind, be ready to take risks, be willing to make mistakes and be patient with yourself. Good advice for anyone of any age.
Anna Wheat says
Thank you so much! I totally agree, I think anyone and everyone struggles with finding their calling, no matter the age. While writing this I was hoping that people of all ages would relate in some way. I’m so glad I was able to get my point across in a way everyone would understand.