I’m used to the idea that most Trinity students are wiser than I was in college. It’s okay; I was a late bloomer. And so, when you finish reading this column, you might ask yourself, “So what?” But maybe you won’t, and if you don’t, you’re the exact person to whom I’m writing.
You: the one who feels a little down on yourself at the moment. You’re pretty sure you could be doing better. You’re still really shy and you wish you didn’t get so tongue-tied when you talked to professors you respect. You should be waking up earlier and working out more. You worry that you might be kind of flaky. You need to procrastinate less and get more organized. You know you should be more ambitious but you just don’t know how to be ambitious. Also, you need to stop badmouthing your friends; it isn’t nice.
When older people tell you that you’ve got your whole life ahead of you, what you really see is how your whole life looms ahead of you. It looks like a storm cloud made of question marks. Graduation seems like a door at the edge of a chasm, and you’re really not sure what’s going to happen when you cross that threshold, but you know that on the other side is adulthood. On the other side is your life.
And if you’re like I was in college, you think that the end of college is the end of growing up. You think that once you walk through that door, you’ll be a fully formed adult. That who you are when you graduate is who you’re going to be forever.
It’s easy to think that way because an infinite number of graduation cards reinforce this notion. They’re almost always blue. Blue, as in, the endless sky, the wild blue yonder, the future. “Congratulations on growing up,” they might as well all read, “Here’s $20!”
Here’s the thing, though. Graduation isn’t the end of growing up. You’ll keep changing and, if you do it right, you’ll keep growing. You aren’t the “˜you’ you will be in five years or 10. You may yet become the person who gets up early and doesn’t procrastinate. You’ll learn how to speak without sounding like an idiot. You’ll figure out how to pursue what (and whom) you love. You’ll get to the gym. You’ll change.
And so will everyone else. That incredibly awkward girl in your econ class? She’ll grow up. That jerk you dated sophomore year? S/he will too.
The secret of adulthood is that we’re all still growing up. Most of us are still trying to be better at being ourselves, no matter how old we are. And the people who aren’t trying “” who believe they can’t change “” are already a little dead inside, no matter how young they might be. Don’t be dead inside.
You aren’t the you you will be.
How can I be so sure? That “you” up there? That was once me.
Kelly Carlisle, Ph.D. is an assistant professor in the department of English.