It is nearly impossible to be fully prepared for every change and transition in your life, there are steep ups and downs to each motion and the only way to gain any experience is to face it all head on. However, no one could have prepared me for just how drastic a change the high school student to an adult in the real-world pipeline would be.
The most information I got academically about what the big age of 18 would be like was through school seminars on picking the right university, gaining an apprenticeship or repeating another year of high school. But, no one could have prepared me for the intense lifestyle change that came with leaving high school.
High school was equal parts of studying and freedom, it was an exam today and a day at the beach tomorrow for me. Sure, my teachers constantly reminded us that certain things we had in high school such as the personal support from teaching staff and reminders to study would be gone in university, but that made no impact when we hardly knew what was going to happen in a few months.
Some of my friends and classmates had older siblings who had gone through the whole ordeal of entering adulthood and society, they had resources and backup in case they had difficulty. Some people had parents who had attended and graduated from Canadian universities and colleges, they knew what the process should look like and how to prepare for the transition. But, the rest of us were either the oldest child, the only child or had no family members that had attended a Canadian post-secondary institution.
To put it lightly, I was lost, completely and utterly lost in the grand landscape of creating university applications and signing up for government aid. I read articles and watched videos on how to navigate post-secondary, but most of the time, it all sounded like gibberish to me. Jargon from a world so far away from my own, it felt like adults from another timeline were trying to explain the science of their world to me.
I finished my applications, submitted them and thought that would be it. Like Sisyphus rolling the rock up a hill eternally, adulthood began, and it seemed way too sudden. I often texted my friends, gaining some semblance of order in my life by hearing how they were doing. Everyone was struggling, in one way or another, and that made me feel alright with my struggles.
Summer came around and school ended, I bid the good and bad experiences of high school goodbye and put off thinking about university for my mental health. Summer was slow, the skies were bright blue and bursting with good energy for yet another day of possibility. I explored some hobbies and enjoyed a lazy summer.
Two months went by too fast and I found myself once again in the middle of the 800m dash for the adulthood Olympics. I was running in flip-flops against seasoned athletes with years of experience, and they seemed to pass me by one after the other. University was entirely independent, which I loved, and incredibly fast-paced, which I loathed. I tried to make my life as aesthetic as possible to deal with the stress of imposter syndrome.
Observing the other people at school made me feel lost, and that peculiar weight I felt on my chest near the end of high school came back. It had never left me in the first place, merely going into hibernation during the summer months and reemerging once school started again. I often wondered what to do, I was completely on my own at this university and my friends felt miles away.
The ordeal of getting a job struck as well, it felt as though I were pushing three boulders up a hill at once. I never had a job in high school, my experience was lacking in the eyes of employers who would have preferred an employee who had been working since birth. I was deemed inexperienced and was told that my resume details did not match up to the requirements for even the lowest-entry jobs.
I had nothing going for me at the beginning except for my writing, my loyal friend and enemy who had been by my side since early childhood. I wrote, and wrote, till my hands were tired of the keys on my keyboard and my mind needed rest. Nobody prepared me for how tiring everything would become and certainly nobody prepared me for how alone you would feel at times.
I was not alone, I came to realise nearly a month later as I was squeezed into a lobby with several other first-year students during a meeting at The English Students’ Union. Everybody seemed nervous about what to do, there were a few rare individuals who were dead set on their ambitions, but the rest were all a little like me. I felt less alone.
I am an unprepared teenager stumbling my way through life, sometimes you have to accept that there are paths where you will run, some you will have to climb and others that you can frolic through. But you cannot reach the middle or the end, without starting the first step at the beginning.
Now that I look back on the past few months, I have come to feel a little appreciation for my past self who walked forward with hesitation and anxiety. I had no idea what was waiting for me or how to prepare, but I took that first step of faith nonetheless. I think that was enough for me to know that I was going to be okay.
So, don’t worry if you are currently an unprepared teenager, or even if you are an awkward adult. Experiences are measured through time and action, while time is out of your hands, your actions are not. So try things out, meet new people and push beyond your safe boundaries. Perhaps you will find that you are in control of your world and that certain things are possible once you take on that first step.
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