Searching for grad school was more complicated than I thought, it’s no wonder my mental health was antsy because of it.
Whether it’s the end of college, following your dreams, or your mental health, sometimes home can be more suffocating than you think. But does that mean you need to leave the place and people you love in order to grow as a person? And how do you know leaving home—or staying home—is the best move you can make for your future, and your mental safety?
These were the questions I struggled to ask myself as the end of college drew near.
There were things I wanted to do, aspirations I knew I had to chase, but I still felt like something was holding me back.
Was it my increasing anxiety? The fear of leaving my parents? My own self-doubt?
No matter what I did the questions kept coming, and I was no closer to figuring out what I needed to do. I realized if I was ever going to get anywhere with understanding what was right for me, I needed to deal with one element at a time.
With that being said, there were two big things I had to think about.
I needed to differentiate between what I needed and what I wanted.
Figuring out the difference between the two wasn’t as easy as I thought it’d be. It wasn’t hard to say I wanted to be one of the greatest storytellers of our time, but it was hard figuring out how the hell I was supposed to get there. I knew getting my master’s degree—getting more training—was the next step, however I couldn’t pick my next university strictly based on my creative needs. I also needed to contemplate my mental ones.
Over the course of my Undergrad my mental health had taken a turn for the worst.
I know and respect my boundaries more as a graduate than I ever did as a freshman, and because of this, I knew any decision I made for the future couldn’t overlook the crap in my head.
There were as many pros and cons to completing my training out of state as there were to staying in state.
Pro: if I went out of state I’d get to have more time on my own and get to experience the “college scene” in a more adult lens.
Con: I have no idea how my anxiety will change and affect me and I won’t be near any of my safe spaces.
Pro: if I stayed home I’d have more time to get to a better mental state and won’t have to worry about how that’ll affect my creativity.
Con: if I don’t leave my home, will I be stuck settling here forever?
That one stung the most, especially because I knew it was fueled by fear.
Forever is a strong word, but I’ve heard so many stories of people who had dreams, seemed ambitious, and never moved past their dreamer stage. It was as if they’d forgotten that the whole point of having a dream is to make it a reality. I was worried what would happen if I didn’t push myself to leave now, and I was equally as worried about what would happen if I pushed myself too fast.
Sure I didn’t want to end up settling in my hometown, but I wasn’t too fond of having anxiety attacks everyday in a new place, with no one to help me through them.
As much as I wanted to have a cut and clear answer I had to understand that what I needed was options for both. Basically, I had to apply to universities that could give me as much middle ground as possible.
If they were out of state I needed some place (a dorm, an apartment, whatever) that I could make my new “home base” (somewhere I was comfortable and safe enough to have attacks and still manage them). I wanted to stay somewhat close to home so I tried to limit my maximum radar to the east coast, specifically New York. New York was still a state away but it was definitely a comfort zone for me.
As much as it sucks, not all colleges are built the same, and not all majors have the same program opportunities in each state. With that in mind, I decided that tf they were in-state, I had to be sure I wasn’t sacrificing my educational development. On top of that, I had to be sure my home life was still stable enough for me to exist in. Afterall, there’d be no point in having a safe space if the environment I’m in is the problem.
With this in mind I began the grueling task of finding the right colleges for me. I have a few down and although I’m still looking, keeping these criteria in my head has helped narrow down the process and ease much of my anxiety.
Still, I can’t help but think...
What if I make my choice and it’s the wrong one?
Life is a long game. This has hands down been one of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve been given, because it’s true. Life feels short, but it isn’t. That’s the beauty of it. If you think you messed up, you can always fix it. If I decide to go to an instate college and regret it, then I’ll know I need to look for jobs out of state or start thinking about moving. If I go out of state and feel like there were things I could still learn at home, then I’ll reevaluate my needs and go back for a while.
As hard as mistakes might be, there’s always something we can learn from them.
Take my undergrad for example. The college I went to didn’t give me many pleasant experiences, but I learned more about myself through my struggles there than I had anywhere else.
This isn’t my way of saying the hardships of a mistake are all fun and games, I’m saying they’re not the end.
Life. Is. A. Long. Game.
Don’t spend it thinking every move you make is final.
You don’t have to leave home to keep evolving, but you don’t have to stay home to do that either. Find compromise where you can, and when you can’t, figure out your priorities and go from there.
Lean on your friends, your family, your faith, or even just yourself.
Trust your gut,