I often fear that college is some big practical joke everyone is playing on me.
You will have the most freeing, most independent, most experimental and hectic four years of your life, they tell me. You will feel your most confident. You’ll discover yourself. You’ll finally make friends who understand you on such a deep, fundamental level, and then…
Poof. Four years fly by and we rip that away from you. We kick you out and make you work some silly 9-5, or throw you into 4 years of graduate school, and you think it’s going to be the same, but it’s not. And you’re going to sit there, either in your research lab or your car on your morning commute or in your suffocating little cubicle, and you’re going to think: Is this all there is? Is this all I will be?
I’m afraid that this is my peak, as I gallivant and frolic across this all-too-familiar-yet-not-familiar-enough campus. I’m just some girl who overshared a tad bit too much on some college admissions blogs. Someone who didn’t make use of her MIT education, took it for granted, didn’t challenge herself enough so she dropped her computer science major just to end up as some strange cop-out major instead.
As my time ticks away, regret eats away at everything I do. Should I have studied abroad? Should I have taken a gap year? Should I have done research and just applied to grad school for media studies? Why am I going into tech when I know it’s not what I want to do at the end of the day? How much of a role does money really play in my life?
I’ve been revisiting the show Fleabag as of late and when I watch interviews with Andrew Scott and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, I feel a discernible ache in my chest. There’s a warmth that spreads over and I feel my heart lurch and clench. And though it’s hard to put into words, I can only think to label this feeling as regret. And guilt. And longing.
When I was a kid, I loved performing. I loved the idea of entertaining other people in any form or shape possible. I would perform on top of the coffee table, singing loudly and dancing in exchange for smiles and claps from my grandparents.
At around age 4 or so, I discovered YouTube and the idea of video making. I particularly was enthralled by the idea of LPs, or Let’s Plays. The mere notion that people would watch me play video games was something so exciting and foreign. I stole my mom’s camcorder, propped it up on some books, and pointed it at my desktop as I played Club Penguin. I was so giddy; I blathered on and on about the optimal way to make money in game and how to complete the secret agent missions. Perhaps I was just a tad bit too lonely as an only child, but talking to the camera, fully knowing this wouldn’t be posted anywhere, made me feel as though I had a friend. That someone was really listening.
I eventually did post some videos to YouTube, and even when my mom caught me and told me to never upload anything to YouTube, I still continued to do it because it was something I found so interesting.
And as YouTube developed more and more, I expanded my horizons past just the world of gaming and Let’s Plays and started watching vloggers — people like Dan Howell, Phil Lester, kickthepj, Grace Helbig. I loved how their content was so simple in nature: just them being funny and telling stories. Being genuine.
Around middle school, I started to upload more and more YouTube videos to my channel, a lot of them just being walkthroughs for video games or even tutoring videos that were guides to how to solve the latest Algebra homework or reviews for our US history class.
Eventually in high school, though, the reality of the situation settled in, along with the self-doubt. It’s cringey, I thought, to make all this content for no one. It’s embarrassing. It’s pathetic.
And so I stopped, save for the occasional song cover here and there. As I stopped videomaking, I also stopped playing videogames, throwing myself into school. Focusing on something realistic. As much as I loved videomaking and playing games and singing and songwriting, it wasn’t going to pay the bills. So chemistry and biology became my life. Getting into a good school became my top priority. And by my senior year, my hard work had paid off. MIT called my name and I packed my bags, ready to go.
But by my freshman year, something funny happened.
I had done everything I had planned to do. I worked hard, I got into the school of my dreams, I made friends and yet, and yet, and yet…
As a kid, I feel like I’ve always dreamed really fucking big. I wanted to open an animal reservation as big as the San Diego Safari Park and live away my life, taking care of animals. I wanted to start my own animal rescue or shelter or something of that nature. I wanted to do something meaningful with my life, something bigger than myself.
And though I shoved all those thoughts down in high school, really buckled down to make sure I stayed realistic and grounded, all these thoughts came flooding back to me in college.
I sit here now, almost 10 years later, still feeling dissatisfied with my trajectory. I have a job lined up, and it’s good. I have a boyfriend I’m ready to move in with, to tackle New York City together, but I still am here feeling as if I didn’t accomplish enough. That I didn’t do the thing that I set out to do. That I’m settling. Compromising.
And it’s stupid because I’m only fucking 20 years old and there’s a whole life ahead of me, so many years that I haven’t lived yet and that college is only just a small blip of time.
But now it feels almost desperate, like I’m clawing my way for some sort of purchase, begging for more time because I understand now what it feels like to run out of it. Give me a redo, I cry, I’ll make something of myself this time. Let me try again, I say, I promise I’ll make it worth it.
This is all to say that I’m afraid. I’m afraid that this is all my life is and all that it will ever amount to. I’m afraid that five years from now I’m going to be working the same job, content with being boring and simple. Okay with tippy tapping at my keyboard to work on products that don’t really do anything at all. Comfortable with the life I’ve carved out for myself without ever doing anything really meaningful at all.
There’s still an itch, a want to try content creation for real, this time. To pursue finally writing that YA novel I’ve had planned in my head for years. Or finally writing that webcomic that I’ve been developing. Or finally taking a crack at starting a proper YouTube channel, one that doesn’t lean into my academic prowess or university status, but one that’s just about me.
I blame the blogs, really, for all this. I think I could’ve let it go had it not been for this platform, the satisfaction that comes with being able to cut myself open and splay it out online, oversharing all these bits and pieces of myself for an audience. All of a sudden, I’m three years old again, dancing on a coffee table, receiving claps and laughs in exchange.
But it’s hard. It’s hard to do all these things because my mind is more rational than it was back then. Maybe in the fourth grade I could bang out 400 pages of content like that, but now every word I write receives a critical eye. Hell, even every blog I write does.
I’ve got dozens of drafts sitting in the admissions website, crying out for me to finish them, but I can’t. Not interesting enough, I tell myself. Does this really fit my brand? Will people even read this? Aren’t people sick and tired of me? I’ve had four years, no one is reading at all.
And then it cuts even deeper. I’m a micro of a micro of a microcelebrity. I write blogs for prospective high school students; how could you possibly kid yourself into thinking you have actual important things to say? How could you want a bigger platform when your writing is only good enough for something as irrelevant and as minuscule as this?
And deeper. Well, you’ve wasted your four years of college anyway. You just couldn’t pick one. You’re a mediocre engineer that chose an easy way out. You just did the bare minimum, got some cushy tech job, and now you’ll spend the next four years working on unimpressive, meaningless software. You could’ve maybe done something in media — research, writing, maybe made something of yourself. But you were too afraid to lean into it, too afraid to really go for it. So now you sit here with no real media skills, just some poor attempts at fiction writing, some uninspiring, overemotional blogposts, and half-assed videos. And you’re disappointed. You have the audacity to be disappointed when you did this to yourself.
So yeah, it’s been hard. Maybe it’s a bit egotistic to think that I was destined for something bigger. I mean, doesn’t everyone think the world of themself only to realize they are painfully small and insignificant, just like the 8 billion other people out there? I don’t know how to cope with being mediocre. I don’t know how to cope with being insignificant.
I don’t know how to cope knowing that this is all there is.
I spend a lot of time on Wikipedia reading up on celebrities I admire. In particular, I look at the age they reached stardom and I start to do the math in my head. “Well if she got famous at 16, then..” or “She’s been working for this for 8 years and finally got famous at 27, so..” It’s silly, I know, but it’s a way I reassure myself that maybe there is still time. And of course, there is still time, it’s a matter of if I want to put in the effort.
I’d like to clarify that I don’t think the goal is to be famous. I think that feels silly and self-absorbed. I think the goal, instead, is to make something that I’m proud of. And while the blogs do satisfy that to some degree, there’s still a craving for more. More theatrical, more produced, more…anything.
So I hope that I can come back to this blog in five years and make myself proud. I hope I’ve learned how to be small and meaningless and be okay with it, or found some way to find meaning and passion in my life. I hope that college is not my peak. I hope that this is not it. I hope that there is more, and I hope that there will continue to be more.