Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
That was the sound of seconds, then minutes, then hours, and days, weeks, months all slipping out of the hands of the clock that was in perpetual motion. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. It played in his head when he thought, it played in his head when he wrote, it played in his head when he slept. It was the constant reminder: your time is slipping and soon this application will be due.
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
I was suffering in a pubescent existential crisis. Not one in which I would splurge on a fancy red car, plastic surgery, or take up pilate-kick-boxing-yoga. But rather a classic existential crisis of a worrisome teen. It was the whole college thing. College. It’s a small word and a relatively distant idea, that perhaps in my future I would be listening to lectures, sharing my room and microwave, and doing keg stands at the Gamma Zelda Capricorn house. It’s what my dad did, it’s what my mom did, my grandparents, my uncles, aunts, friends, cousins, co-workers, the list goes on. Suddenly the time had rapidly changed in my life from when I was younger and asked, “So what do you want to be when you grow up? A football player? A fireman?” to today’s monotonously repeated question by anyone over the age of 17: “So what college are you applying to?”
I have a memorized list of answers to this question as long as my arm (which is 29 inches long, so it’s a long list). I begin with “Well my dream school is UCLA…” and it all blurs after that. My lips move and spray facts and lofty plans with evidence proven by only yours truly, and I drone until I’ve satisfied the asker, or at least bored them into a coma. I’ve never really answered their question for the sake of giving them an honest answer, I mostly just accepted the fact that this is any easy conversation topic that we can both choose; Both of us have or will be involved in collegiate affairs at one point in our life, and that fills the gaps of our dry and meaningless conversation that holds about the weight of a pinhead. It’s silly, it’s meaningless, it’s bullshit.
Sometimes I wonder about giving them my true answer to the question. The authentic response, not for the sake of keeping a dying conversation alive, but really answering the question for myself. What if I told them the truth, something teens keep secret from all others like it’s the combination to their souls. Would I say that I’m terrified of making such a huge decision? Would I tell him I think that college is a scam and I really just want to drive up and down North America in a VW Bus with a typewriter and video camera, with no destination apart from the sake of being lost. Could I tell him that I don’t really know what my college plan is, that I’m not sure if I’m ready, or if I can even tell if I’m at the right point in my life to make the decision.
That’s something that’s always really bugged me, and when I say bugged me I mean gnawed at my conscious for the past three years constantly. The decision. Because whose decision is it anyways? Who decided I would be applying to colleges, taking SAT’s, or even writing this essay? I sure as hell didn’t. As a collective grade we all looked at the path our parents took, and then saw the process first hand when our older siblings and friends marched down the intimidating college road. We decided we would throw ourselves onto this road and begin the big process of making a decision because it felt “natural.” But I didn’t choose to join the march. I just got swept away in the stampede that was my grade, that was time itself. Flying down the linear path of time towards decision making, towards college.
Even as I write this essay I still haven’t wrapped my head around the idea that one day the place where I was born, grew up, and existed in for the past 17 years I will no longer be able to call my home. My home, the only place that is truly secure in my life, where I can go when something horrible happens, like an ended friendship, a heartbreaking failure, or an ebola outbreak. Leaving has really scared me to the point where I honestly can’t even wrap my head around it. I’ll no longer be able to call this house my home. It baffles me. I keep telling myself that come August of 2015 I will have to make a permanent 80 mile journey from here to Los Angeles. Which is a relatively small journey compared to some 17 year olds 200 years ago on the Oregon Trail, spanning 2,170 miles in a rickety wagon on a six month course where the survival rate was smaller than the number of teeth they had. Whereas I will spend my hour-long journey in an air-conditioned Toyota Highlander listening to the Talking Heads. Somehow both these great journeys towards change seem just as impossible.
So maybe my grade thinks they’re ready to embark on their journey of great change because their parents or siblings tell them “It’ll be great;” But am I? Hell, I don’t even like it when I have to change breakfast cereals, like am I really ready to start my life over agin with new friends, new school, new courses, in a new city? I don’t know if I’m ready for that. But it doesn’t matter, because I don’t have time to check with myself if I’m ready or not because I’m caught in the head-spinning, non-stop stampede towards graduation.
In these last months it seems like every night I lie in bed choking with panic that I’ve missed a deadline, then I’m washed in self-loathing by how I could have spaced on something so important. Moments later I realize it’s just my anxious mind stepping ahead of its self, because I can’t miss anything, I have all my deadlines practically tattooed on my chest. Then I map out the next day planning when I’m gonna study, when I’m gonna work, when I’m gonna write. BAM! I look over and wouldn’t you know it’s 2:30am. I’ve been lying in bed for hours and I can’t slept because my schedule is a living nightmare withholding me from rest like its some torture tactic in Guantanamo Bay. What’s next fears, are you gonna water-board me? It feels like I don’t even have time to do the important things in life anymore like climb trees, read Hemingway, collect sea glass, play Monopoly with my family, or learn to Foxtrot. These precious moments of my youth are tick-tick-ticking away while I’m click-click-clicking on this laptop writing my fifth essay about how running hurdles influenced me to become a filmmaker. I just want it all to slow down.
Because the other truth is that I do want to move out of the nest to make something of myself. I want to explore new ideas in a new environment, I want to meet new people who could become life-long friends, I want to grow as a person and mature into an adult, and I want to pursue my passion and make films for the rest of my life that capture human beings true stories of their struggles on this Earth. I just don’t want to do it at this pace. I want to sleep again. I want to walk from place to place with no schedules, no time restraints. I want to breathe. I want to learn about myself by soul-searching in my hometown, not by analyzing my life in under 500 words. I know that I can’t run from college applications or my future, I know that these are the natural steps in the process of moving into adulthood; I just want to be able to look back fondly on my last year at home.
By this time I’m sure I’ve finger-painted a pretty messy portrait of myself. I’m anxious, I’m doubtful, I’m certainly not ready for change, and I’m scared. Maybe you’ve already put this essay in the trash thinking “Ok, I’ve had enough with this kid, he doesn’t seem like he’s mentally stable or as dedicated to moving forward as these other 40,000 kids claim to be.” Yeah, I’m making a mess of my image. So what I’m not telling you that I’m your schools best option, the “brightest star” or the “prettiest snowflake.” What I am telling you is the truth. The truth me and all the other 40,000 “snowflakes” and “stars” stampeding with me know. We are all subliminally telling you in our applications and essays what our parents felt when they applied, what you felt when you applied, and what you know now: “I’m not ready.”
So fuck you college.
P.s. Please accept me.