College is generally seen as the transitional period when a person goes from living with and depending upon their parents to a more independent lifestyle that is almost—but not quite—adulthood. If college is stressful, that is seen as inevitable, since students are going through entire lifestyle changes.
On top of learning the hard way to separate whites from yellow and pink laundry and attempting to wash things you didn’t even know you had to wash (like blankets), you now also have to learn to occasionally wash yourself without prompting, and budget for things you need, like saving money for toothpaste instead of buying that fancy coffee drink. Not to mention that you are entering an entirely new community of people who you now have to interact with and hopefully find some potential friends.
But hey, this is all good! The lifestyle change one faces in college is daunting, yes, but it has been working for so long because it has long-lasting positive effects. While in college, you are forced to become independent and learn how to take care of yourself financially, mentally and physically. Therefore, the end goal of this turmoil of emotions, isolation and immense amounts of stress is a fully-fledged adult who never accidentally mixes their laundry only to find a once pristine white shirt now an interesting shade of yellow-orange, who never buys that special coffee drink for an outrageous amount of instead of toothpaste and who never forgets to bathe.
Also, this well-balanced, freshly-made adult has a healthy amount of friends who engage them in a diverse social atmosphere. They have a reliable job, an eco-friendly car with numerous “Save the Trees” bumper stickers which they never use because they bike everywhere and they use this bike to take them to their favorite organic smoothie shop where they buy their fifty calorie smoothie religiously, and then continue on to work, where they feel complete and happy forever and ever.
But what if the system fails? What happens if the great college machine scans your newly prescribed Lawrence ID and cannot find a way to make you into the perfect adult? Then, I believe, life gets a lot more fun.
Sure, it was a little hard when people around me were starting to get the hang of how to eat semi-healthily and I was still consisting off an oatmeal cookie and mountains of tea, or when they remarked upon how easy a test was, which would have been easy for me too if only I had managed my time correctly and actually studied more than 30 minutes before the class. But I think what has always been hardest for me, living as an error in the adult-processing unit that is college, has been trying to figure out when I am pushing myself too hard versus when I am a disappointment for not attaining the high expectations from those around me.
Sometimes I sit down to watch just one episode of a show before I start my homework, look up at the clock afterward, and realize three weeks have passed. That is really bad. And then other times I have committee meetings before class, a board meeting after and then a promised blood donation, work and then my other job, and I get back to my room afterwards starving, tired beyond reason and completely unable to focus on my plethora of homework beckoning to me.
And that is when adulthood really scares me. Is adulthood really just a non-stop grind from wake to the weary fall back into bed every night? A burden of expectations to do this club, join this thing, volunteer here, intern there, all while maintaining the best grades ever and holding down a job in order to afford just being here as well as a blooming social life. And all of this while wearing a smile that says to the world, “Look at me and my eight million commitments and my wonderful accomplishments—this is what adulting looks like, and this is what you’ll be someday too!”
I want no part in that kind of pressure. I want people to have high expectations of me. I want a community around me made up of my family, friends and teachers who push me to overcome challenges and set up lofty goals for myself so I become a better person. But I do not want to be compared to a set mold in my accomplishments.
I am 21 years old, and I am not now, nor will I ever be, a perfect adult. There are plenty of days where I run from my room, shoes untied and hair a mess, sprinting to class because I stayed up late watching videos of guinea pigs in hats playing cricket and overslept the alarm, and I forget a snack and or my notes for that class, and sometimes even my entire backpack. I am not the person in class with their color-coded notes clearly outlined with bookmarks; I am the person who runs in late, scattering sheets of paper everywhere and mumbling to myself as I search for the assignment for today, which may or may not have remnants of my lunch stained on it, as well as various doodles all over the place.
But, most of the time, I somehow manage to make everything work out, and I find that one sheet of paper needed crumbled at the bottom of my cavernous backpack, along with a much-needed granola bar, which may be from three years ago, but who cares? And yes, my methods may be unconventional and kind of crazy and, at times, even outright extraordinary, but they leave me feeling that throughout all of my endeavors to meet the expectations of those around me, I am still human.
My family expects me to have good grades, make friends, go to work, sleep and eat to maintain a healthy balance. My teachers expect me to have internships, volunteer hours, possible future employments connections all lined up and homework turned in one time that is above and beyond what the assignment called for. And my friends expect my full attention when they need my advice, someone to laugh with when they feel stressed and a real person who they know will never be fake with them, (but may sometimes take some of their food). But I am able to handle all of these expectations, as well as my own for what I envision in my future, because I allow myself to meet these goals step by step everyday in my own way. That means sometimes I have days where I don’t even glance at my Netflix or YouTube accounts, I buy all the healthy things, and I have all the answers in class. And then other days I wake up and I am sad and I don’t feel like wearing anything but pajamas all day and all I do is eat cookies and go for walks, and that’s OK. Because I move at my own, non-perfect adult speed.
And I believe even when I am eighty-five, my white shirts will be stained a light yellow-pink from not separating my loads, because I like them that way.