How many times do our expectations get squashed by reality? I'm not even talking solely our own expectations, but those created by society. Societal "normal" of what a period of time in your life will be like, or what a holiday or life event will bring. Let's look at one biggie:
"College will be the best years of your life!"
What if we didn't have this pressure, these expectations, and got to experience things for ourselves? How do they turn out? The issues I see are when our experiences don't align with what is expected, and we have to wade through the reality seemingly alone.
What if college is not ALWAYS the best time of your life? Its a time in life when we struggle to (warning: cliche) find out who we are. There are days when we fight to be an adult, days we crave childhood, want responsibility, want someone to tell us what to do, rage against someone telling us what to do, then cry when we have to make a decision on our own. One day we know what we want to do, the next day you have no clue. You change majors. You regret changing majors. You want to make money, you struggle with humanity. Someone asks you what you want to be when you grow up, you stare at them blankly and all you want to say is (to put it nicely), "How the heck am I supposed to know?"
Confusing? Absolutely. Understandable? Yes.
Now some people might have the experience where college is the best of their life, but it is not a fact. Will you and can you have a lot of fun, find your path and purpose in life and miss college when it is over? Sure. But in that you are prepping and figuring what your plan will be the rest of your life. And that is a tall order.
We as humanity crave stability. Crave relationship. Hate not being able to answer "simple" questions about ourselves like, "So what's your major?".
So what if people were real in their parting words as you move into your dorm for college. What if you were told that college can be, and will be at times, a lot of times- a blast. Fun for days (sometimes all night). College will open doors to new ideas and new people, new relationships and new opportunities that you would never imagine. You will be foolish, and irresponsible, or responsible and holed up in the library while holding down two jobs, but there will be people in same boat where ever you go. There will also be stress, and feelings of isolation and the unknown. You will be scared and overwhelmed and lost and not know your path. You might fail at things, you might get perfect scores. You will question and regret and want your mom. You will go home for your first holiday and see your family and friends and it will be great, but eventually home will feel less like home, and you will start to move forward with a new place of belonging. You will battle, and explore and fight and make your place in the world. Realistically you might not find career of a lifetime on your first try. But you can dream and pursue and are allowed the opportunity.
What if you were told a greater sense of reality about "the best years of your life"?
Recently evidence has shown how anxiety in high school and college students is sky rocketing. Suicide rates are increasing. Mental Health for college students is declining, or at least coming to light. The reality is being on your own and having to face life in a new way is hard. Life transitions of any kind are hard, and with college you are moving, making a new friends, tracking down your path in life, preparing to "be an adult" and fearful of the future. Student loans are just another overwhelming reality that complicates things even further.
Here in Nashville we have Vanderbilt, Belmont, Lipscomb, and just down the road MTSU just to name a few. The cost is hefty and the pressures are high.
If you are in college, its ok. Its complicated, it hard, its wonderful, its confusing. Its anxiety. Its stress. Take care of yourself. Seek help, go to counseling, allow yourself to be real and vulnerable.
If you are not in college, be understanding for those that are. Yes, they have a "wonderful" life, but is comes with struggles of its own. Lets be sensitive to that.