I’ve come to realize that my impressions of the pressure associated with higher education were backwards upon my entrance into the college world. I always thought that it was the kids who pressured themselves into making life-altering decisions as soon as they crossed the threshold of campus for the first time. I’m starting to see things the opposite way. Maybe it’s because the ultimate objective in high school was just to do well enough to be competitive with all the other students trying to get into college or maybe because I was never one to strive toward extremely long-term goals, but it seems like, all of a sudden, there are a good number of adults “strongly encouraging” me to plan out the next 20 or so years of my life.
It seems like whenever I tell people beyond the age of 22 that I have not decided on a major, I get a rather generalized response: “Oh really? That’s the best way to go,” followed by a plastered-on smile that turns into an annoyingly knowing smirk the second I stop forcing myself to laugh in order to mask my insecurity. I especially tend to feel slightly uncomfortable when I tell people what classes I’m taking, which in no way reflect that I have some sort of direction in what I want to study.
In high school, it seemed as though everyone was working toward a common goal: getting into college. That leveled the playing field, to a certain extent. We had to compete with each other for the same things, which thereby made our peers the ones pushing us to succeed. Sure, there were always some great teachers who instilled in you a desire to learn and do your best, but for the most part, it was our peers who put pressure on us. Now, it’s the adults who are already in the “real world” that are pushing us to become what they now are, or to be something better than what they have achieved.
It’s not that I’m saying that this situation is the fault of anyone, or any group of people, but it’s just the way things seem to be. Now that we are all working towards different things, whether it be medical school (although here, most people are probably working toward this goal), graduate school, law school or getting a job right out of college, we no longer have the exact same goal, and we therefore don’t motivate each other as much as we once did. Granted, there are all the other students across America and the world that will be competing with us after graduation, but it just doesn’t seem the same.
It’s kind of like once we got to school, it was suddenly time to be driven, motivated young adults. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it seems like as soon as I arrived here, adults began to expect a lot more out of me and for me to be ready to prepare myself for the rest of my life. I appreciate the motivation, but I still consider myself a youngster, judging by the fact that I still derive pleasure from “Full House” and “The Fresh Prince.”
It’s odd that it was just expected that the morning we woke up to move away from home and go off to college, we were supposed to mature instantaneously.
Maturation comes with time and experience, much of which is gained in our four years here. I’ll understand when adults pressure me to act like a worldly, mature grown-up when I get to the end of college, and I very much hope I am at least capable of pretending I’m ready for adulthood at that point, but right now it’s safe to say I’m still working on the whole gaining maturity thing.
For the most part, I think we can all at least act mature when the situation demands it, but I still have undeniably childish moments, and I don’t think too many other people my age would have a hard time admitting they are yet to reach their prime of maturity.
So while I appreciate the encouragement from adults, I think for now we’re all going to be okay if we choose to use college to live out our youth a little bit longer and wait to face adulthood until we’re ready – or until we graduate, whichever comes first.
Stevenson is a member of the class of 2011.