When I decided to go to Randolph-Macon, it was not for the right reasons. It wasn’t for the career center, or the one-on-one attention, or the lab time. It wasn’t about any of the features I’ve come to love, all of that came after. It was totally and completely about the money. I knew my father wouldn’t be paying for college which meant my mother would be carrying twice the burden. My sister and I have shared everything since the day she was born and money was no different. Whatever I chose to spend on my college career, was taken directly from her, as if she wrote the check herself. Now, I have fallen in love with Randolph-Macon and truly believe that fate knew better, but it took time for me to realize that.
So I did what anyone would do. I went where I was blessed enough to get a full-tuition scholarship and found outside scholarship money to cover room and board. And I had made yet another decision for someone else. Growing up in a big family, all choices are made by committee, for the better of the group and I’m completely okay with that. My sister will now, God willing, go to her dream school and I love being a part of that.
This fall, however, I made a life-altering decision completely by myself. No one knew what I had been going through, nor did I care to share. Naturally, when I did what I felt I had to do, I received substantial backlash. That’s the thing about making choices: you have to deal with the consequences. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t irrational. It was, on the other hand, very painful. I know what you’re thinking. If it was that horrendous, and you knew it would be ahead of time, why did you do it? That seems to be the question on everyone’s mind. Why did you do it? What were you thinking?
While I won’t disclose the details of my situation, I wanted to share the things I have learned from my first adult decision.
Nothing about life is Type A
If you have a Type A personality (where are all my OCD’ers out there?), you know the solace of order and organization. If you’re like me, before any encounter, you’ve practiced 291834 ways the situation could go and what you would say in each instance. Mentally practicing makes me feel prepared and being prepared makes me feel less anxious. Usually, this is a healthy way to reduce social anxiety by picturing yourself as successful. Yeah, I know, the visualization stuff all sounds a little too holistic for me, also, but it’s been proven to work. In my carefully constructed world, I have a plan for a plan that already was going to plan. I always want my words to be thoughtful, not emotionally driven. Real life does not care about my plan. Certainly, the universe finds a way to create a situation I didn’t think of, wasn’t prepared for.
Rules deserve rewriting
I have rules for just about everything. When to wash my hair. How to comfort an upset friend. The best way to write a paper. Ideal relationship guidelines. Again, my Type A personality betrays me, but it helps me feel like my day-to-day life adheres to some sort of code. As long as my values are at the heart of the rule-making, I feel safer in my comfort zone with a plethora of rules to keep people away. One of my biggest rules: you have one chance. I easily spot faults in others. I’m a very critical person, but I don’t do so in order to ridicule them. It’s like a coach who needs to know the batting averages of his players. I just want to be aware of what makes others tick. As a busy bee, I only have time for a handful of people and those who rub me the wrong way the first encounter typically don’t hear from me again. Harsh, I know. In this experience, I found my saving grace in a thrown away person. At the bottom of my low, I rediscovered a person I had previously written off and found a really special type of comfort in that. Rewrite the rules, just don’t throw out the book.
Gut feelings mean something
I like science because it has data. I like data because it’s impartial. I like impartial because therein lies the truth. ‘Gut feelings’ to me sound like emotion overreaction, or worse a blatant ignorance of wisdom. I attempted to collect ‘data’ in the form of advice from others. I decided if I collected enough advice, a consensus would exist, and that must be the right thing to do. But in the end, I did what I wanted. After all, prior experience counts as data, too. I’ve come to think now that those gut feelings are just a way of your brain telling you what to do without recalling all of the things that led you to that conclusion. A hint, without the pain. Just make sure that your past is influencing your future in a positive way. Don’t let that one best friend who talked about you ruin friendships for life. That boss that fired you shouldn’t be the reason you don’t pursue another opportunity in the same field. Ask yourself where that gut feeling comes from and listen up.
In two and a half weeks, I’ll be 20 years old. I will retire this year knowing that I grew as a person and as an adult.
Good luck adult-ing 🙂