October 25, 2017

LEUNG | Two Roads Diverged, and I Panicked

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I consider myself a highly emotional person — when taking Enneagram or Myer Briggs Personality Types tests, I choose the most extreme answer when it comes to talking about my emotions. Would I consider myself highly stable? No. Do I mainly react to situations based on my emotions? That’s a given.

It’s coming to a point in my life when I’ve seen, or felt, people’s emotions running equally as high as mine. Aside from finding satisfaction in the sudden stimulation of other’s feelings, it’s comforting to know that I’m not alone in feeling this odd mixture of nervousness, excitement, despair and existentialism.

As I’ve entered my first semester of junior year as a 20-year-old, I’ve found myself having a similar conversation with others over and over again. It’s about knowing that we’re no longer teenagers who can find excuses for almost anything, but that we also don’t have enough knowledge — or experience with the world — to be considered a real adult. We’re applying for jobs and going to interviews, but also dealing with friend drama, jealous exes, and the “this feels like a misfire” comment written on top of your paper by the professor.

It’s interesting the way time changes depending on how old you are. When I was younger, 16 seemed like the golden age. It was the age when you could have your sweet 16 and take your driver’s test; an age of sweet high school nostalgia, complete with football games, slamming lockers and hidden crushes. And then 18 seemed like the age to strive for: as a real adult, the freedoms seemed endless. I could get a tattoo or piercing without parental consent and finally vote in the election (even though the results of this newfound freedom were absolutely terrifying). And then 21 seemed like the golden age — for the most obvious reasons.

Up until this point, we’ve had distinct events in our lives that signal a significant age has passed. We’ve had SATs and proms, college applications and college decisions. But now we’re closer to seeing the inevitable void of time stretched out in front of us. Sure, there are jobs and internships to apply to, and we have some kind of understanding of what we think (or want) to happen. But soon, there won’t be a distinct plan for us to follow. Not that there was always a plan laid out for us, but there was a general direction we headed in to get where we are now. Some of my friends shared similar sentiments.

“I just turned 20 and its felt different than any other age. When I was 19, I was still youthful. Now I’m just one of the 20-year-olds that exist.”

“When I was younger, I thought that when you were in your 20s, you’d have most things planned out. I’m 20, and I have nothing planned out.”

“At 15, I had ideals of what it would be like to have things in your 20s or so. You know, have a girlfriend and a ton of friends. Go to parties. But like also, have a good job or something. I have a lot of those now and it’s not what I thought it would be…they all just seemed like ideals to me.”

“I feel like I’m ready to be an adult, but no one is treating me like one. Like, I’m definitely past that teenager stage, and I’m ready to go into the ‘real world,’ but I’m stuck.”

“Being 20 sucks.”

“I can feel the passing of time now. I look back on high school more like a distant memory. Even my freshman year self seems like a nostalgic past being. I’m starting to feel all the responsibilities of what it’s like to exist outside of this bubble we’ve created for ourselves and it’s scary.”

Halfway through college, and I’ve had more and more conversations about what the hell we’re doing now. It scares me to think that because I’m studying abroad next semester, I’ll have one semester left on this campus before coming back for the final two. With so much happening recently, it’s hard for me to think about leaving. Important issues are being raised (as painful and hurtful as some are) and I can’t imagine what it’ll be like to have my actions and words become detached and distanced from the events that are occurring.

All I can do while I navigate these feelings is build relationships with people I care for, and even those I was hesitant to deal with before. Relationships ground me; I go back to them when time seems daunting and endless. I can throw myself more into classes, knowing that after I leave, I’ll never be forced to read Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, and realize that I do, in fact, believe that the living have become increasingly replaced by representations. I can feel more at ease trying to take advantage of every night and day here, knowing that the fear I have about lost time and the unknown future is just part of being 20.

Gaby Leung is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at gleung@cornellsun.com. Serendipitous Musings appears every other Thursday this semester.