I’m not really good at guessing things. Some people think it’s fun to stand around guessing what the weather will be like tomorrow, or how long [insert female celebrity] will be married to [insert male celebrity] before some disastrous event involving table-flipping and hair-pulling wretches them apart, resulting in a highly entertaining public spectacle. I’m not good at guessing things like that, if my naive estimate that Brad and Angelina would be “together forever” is any indication. I’m still reeling.
When it comes to the future, the truth is that I just can’t bear to indulge in guessing games. They seem trite, even dangerous, in the face of the all-too-terrifying Unknown. How do people move through life making decisions just by GUESSING? How are people so UNCONCERNED with what the Unknown holds? For me, life is partitioned into two parts: The Known and the Unknown. Both aren’t just words that symbolize things; they both have their own meaning, their own power. Most importantly, they have power over me.
The reason I’m talking so much about guessing games and the future and the Known vs. the Unknown is because this past year of my life has been chock-full of all this stuff. If someone were to play back the past year of my life on a giant movie screen, there would mainly be images of me staring introspectively at the wall, scribbling hurriedly in notebooks and looking confused in Starbucks. Never have I thought so much about my own future than this year. And that’s saying something, considering how I started having anxiety attacks* about the future around the age of 8 (but that’s a story for another day).
For anyone who has never been to college, you basically meet two kinds of people: Those who are guessing game experts, and those who are not. There’s a spectrum, of course, but most people generally fall into those two categories. The experts move about life seemingly unconcerned about how much money they spend at Target or whether or not they chose the right major. They have no qualms about missing their 8 AM class a few times a month or about spending the night in a seedy motel on Bludge Street. The experts are cool, calm, and collected. They balance the life described above with a 3.8 GPA. They have perfect beach wave hair every morning despite going to school in Upstate New York. They’re the envy of all the anti -guessers. Maybe they care deep down about the future, and maybe they secretly worry about all the things the anti-guessers worry about. But they certainly don’t let on.
The anti-guessers stare introspectively at walls and get easily confused in Starbucks. Will the barista spit in my drink if I ask for a Frappaccino in January? Will they think I’m basic if I ask for skim milk instead of whole milk? Do I have a standing-in-line-at-Starbucks bitch face?! These are the questions the anti-guessers ask themselves. They can’t just say, “I guess this will work itself out”, or “I guess I’m choosing the right path”, because, oh God, what if we guess wrong?
As with most things, there is of course a spectrum in terms of guessing experts and guessing novices. For example, my friend at school absolutely clings to her weekends brimming with alcohol-fueled adventures involving scavenger hunts and habitual trips to the ER, whilst filling her weekdays with academic advising and personal therapy sessions. She knows who she is, and how to strike her own personalized balance between throwing caution to the wind and burying herself in a pile of self-doubt. I like to think that the Experts are really just Spectrum dwellers in disguise, while the Novices have secret guilty pleasures such as weekendly poker games or late-night Amazon raids. I like to think that inside of each of us is an expert guesser and an anti-guesser, each trying desperately to reign supreme.
We meet the extremes of each kind of guesser in college because we don’t yet know who the hell we are or what the hell we want. This past month especially, I felt all muddy inside, as if my inner-expert and my inner-novice were vying for control of my future. I have lived my life as a novice, an anti-guesser who felt anxious and hopeless in the face of change or the unexpected. I never threw caution at the wind, or purposely put my future in the hands of someone else. College is all about taking chances and exploring. As someone who has lived her whole life as a novice, delving into the world of the Expert is, in a word, daunting.
But as I started to pack up my dorm room for the summer, I realized that that is exactly what I need to do. I spent so much time and energy this past year worrying about and nitpicking my future that instead of feeling sad about leaving, I felt almost relieved.
I loved going away to school, but coming home means that I can walk into my house with fresh eyes and new plans. Sure, my plans for the future have not changed much, and of course I am still going to obsess over whether I chose the right major or if the Starbucks barista has a concealed vendetta against me. But I am also going to plan for the unexpected (even if that sounds like a pretty gnarly oxymoron). I want to try new things, and throw myself into the Unknown. This is the summer before my senior year of college. It may be my last chance. (Which sounds over-dramatic, but whatever).
Thus, we come to where the hell I’ve been: As I so condescendingly put it, I have been trying to plan for the unexpected. Not only did I need a break from school-related thoughts or future-laden stress-out sessions, but I needed a break from the future in general. I needed to break away from my usual frame of mind, (the one where I worry about practically everything, it feels like,) and be spontaneous, irresponsible, and flighty. Yes, I am working a steady part-time job, and yes, I am still writing and reading and maintaining some semblance of a routine (I’m not a caveman!). But I wanted to take a little time right after school ended to be 20. Now, I am going to incorporate this blog into my spontaneous daily routine (I know, I know, the oxymoron again). I love writing, so let’s see how writing spontaneously goes, shall we?
Until that barista inevitably poisons my Frappaccino, that is.
*Just to clarify, I did not have full-blown panic attacks. I’ve struggled with general anxiety since I was a kid, as most of us do. I just wanted to clarify that there are children and teens who have actual full-blown panic attacks, and I was fortunate enough not to be one of them.