This fall marks the first time in over 17 years that I have not returned to school for another year. It’s strange to say the least. I think about where I went to college and what is going on there right now. Freshmen are getting used to the routine. The freedom. The self-dependency. Upperclassmen are coming back for more studies. More friends. More experiences. In the Music Department at Stevens Point, rehearsals have begun again. Parts are being learned. Practice rooms are being occupied. And music is being made. I was recently clicking through songs on my iTunes when I came across Joseph Wilcox’s “American Overture”. It was the first concert piece I ever played in college and it made me think of that time.
College was a great time. In many ways, I had the time of my life there. I made friends, learned more than I ever thought I would, performed music like never before, and loved every minute of it. But there’s something that college does to you in a very subtle way. Something that makes graduating very difficult. Each year there are new requirements, new hoops to jump through. Different classes to pass, accomplishments to achieve. It’s a very linear way of life. Do this. Now do this. Next do this. Mess up? Go back one square. But this is not how life works.
In life there are unlimited options. What to do. Where to go. How to do it. People like me don’t like this. In some weird and paradoxical way, the freedom is paralyzing. We like better knowing what’s coming, what to expect next. So much so that sometimes instead of become an adult, we choose to escape that by, say, volunteering to serve in a foreign country for a year.
In the U.S. we are taught that from the time we’re 18, we are adults. Or at least once we graduate. Or at the very least when we are financially independent and employed full-time. Or at the very very least when we start a family. Our country puts so much emphasis on being independent that we put these artificial markers up to delineate when adulthood has been reached. In Mexico, things are different. In fact often the word ‘joventud’ – ‘youth’ is used to refer to someone even into their 30’s.
Being young is scary. Because there’s something that “adults” know that we don’t know. Life works out. It’s the very reason grandparents don’t stress about whether their grandson Billy figured out how to use the potty when he was two or too old. Eventually it always works out. The same is true about life no matter what stage it is at. Deciding where to work, what house to buy, and what to do when your significant other and you have a huge fight seem like insurmountable decisions to people my age. But to our parents and older generations, those aren’t huge items. They’ve made those decisions before and have realized that really, they’re not going to make or break life one way or the other.
So. To everyone my age or near. There are no right answers. But this doesn’t mean that you have to go through 99 wrong options until you find the one right one. It means that there are lots of right answers. So go try one. Life will work out.