A couple of weeks ago was Ivy Day; the day when most of us received a decision that changed the course of our lives forever. It has been exactly a year since I have received the fateful email from Cornell Admissions in my inbox. That day set me on a path where I first discovered that the world is bigger than my bubble in Southern California and life became more than getting into college. It was the first time I genuinely felt lost because one of the biggest chapters of my life had finally closed. Even throughout all of the celebrations and congratulations, I was still left with the biggest question: What next?
Like most people, I measure my life by milestones. The way I see it, there are only four milestones to experience before I leave this world. The first is high school graduation, which celebrates the last 12 years of your life and your efforts getting through elementary, middle and high school. This period of your life can arguably be the one where you go through the most changes. From figuring out what to bring to show and tell all the way to studying for college admissions exams, it is a long period of time where your childhood slowly melts away to adulthood.
The next is college graduation. This period of your life is much shorter than the previous one, but it is one of the most emotionally challenging ones. You are figuring out your identity and suffering through most of your emotional turmoil alone. The big questions start to infiltrate your life — What do I do with my degree? Where should I move to after I graduate? When will I see my family again? You are setting the foundation for the rest of your life and it is a big burden to carry for a 22 year old.
The next milestone is marriage. You’ve lived out your early 20s in a big city, found the love of your life and you realized this was finally the time, both financially and emotionally, to settle down and invest into your future. This is when you start to get wary, because there is only one more milestone left, one that some don’t even choose to undergo — having children. Thus, the cycle repeats again and you are left to live your life through your child’s milestones.
I understand that this is a very pessimistic way to view the world. I can hear the words of optimists around me arguing that you only live once, and that you are in control of your own life. Countless videos on my For You Page encourage me to go out there and live big. These are all easy claims to make, yet no one seems to acknowledge that it’s hard to leave this cycle, especially when it’s ingrained into our current way of living.
This is the life course that many Americans take and will continue to take in the future. It seems too idealistic and naive to encourage people to change the narrative — change is difficult. Perhaps I am the naive one to question the systematic nature of our lives. Perhaps I will soon embrace and welcome the mundanity and predictable course of my life. Perhaps it is even comforting to think that there are others who will experience the same experiences as me. Or, perhaps this is just the human experience — to embrace the common threads that link all of us together.
These are all big ideas to juggle, especially for a Monday evening. I even feel a little breathless with all of these thoughts coursing through my head. I’ll soon settle down in bed with a warm cup of tea next to me and finish off my book for the night. I hear the sounds of chatter outside my dorm room where students are rushing off to find an open lounge to work on homework together. Outside my window, I see a girl running back to her dorm to quickly escape the cold. Trails of laughter follow behind her as her friends struggle to keep up with her. These are all big thoughts that I don’t have to worry about for now. Instead, I embrace the present and snuggle into my bed, waiting for a new day to come again.
Adin Choung is a freshman in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at [email protected]. A Dinner is Served runs every other Sunday this semester.