A lot of you have no idea where you’re going. What you’re doing. A lot of you are confused about how you’re going to study for finals, let alone how to study.
You’re at one of the most prestigious public universities in the country – I’m willing to bet you didn’t get here by throwing caution to the wind. You planned out, painstakingly I’m sure, all of your university applications and SATs and ACTs and relevant extracurriculars. Once you got here, you charted a course for your major, your housing, your clubs, what graduate programs (if any) you’d be applying for. If you changed anything along that path, for most of you, that change was made in an environment chock full of safety nets and supportive counselors and Degreeworks web services. You never had to feel like you were on your own.
But the year is ending, the future is looming, and whether it’s through the rigors of an excruciatingly expensive graduate program, an introductory position in an exciting new field, or even a future wide open with opportunity, a big change is coming. The next few years probably seem pretty volatile. Maybe you’re worried about student loans, or where you’re going to live; maybe you’re worried about how the love of your life is graduating and moving away. Maybe all that change and uncertainty fills you with dread. I only have two words of advice.
One of the best novels to be written in the last decades is House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski – it’s an absurdly multileveled horror story about a house that’s bigger on the inside, but it’s also a painfully insightful pastiche on literary criticism and deconstruction – not only our academic ideals but our quarter life crises. Among a backdrop of drug use, nihilism (and a house haunted in more ways than one), Danielewski writes: “Maturity, one discovers, has everything to do with the acceptance of ‘not knowing.”
And he’s right. If you’re graduating, you’re going to spend the next three months agonizing over your future – if you’re not graduating yet, you’ll probably spend most of the time you have left at this university doing just the same. But the thing is: nobody’s going to tell you that that’s never going to stop. Even within the University of California system, any stability you’ve encountered is, purely imaginary.
You won’t know what’s coming next – 22 or 42 or 62, life is going to insist on throwing you curveballs and fucking with your plans. You’re never going to be able to plan for all of the insane things that are going to be coming your way, but the most important thing, and this may seem paradoxical, is to keep planning anyway.
Because even though you’re agonizing over the possibility of unforeseen calamities, remember: miracles are just as likely.
Ryan M. Cady is a fourth-year English and psychology major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.