I am scared to death.
In about six weeks, I am going to walk the stage for graduation.
But I don’t know how to move on to the promised “bigger and better things” that seem to await everyone else. I feel like I’m being left behind as my friends run ahead. Every day is another day of me being unable to decide what I’m going to do come May 23.
It’s more than just the day after I graduate that has a cloud of uncertainty looming over it; it’s also the decisions I have to make about what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. It’s like I’m taking a math test and don’t recognize the problem. I don’t know how or where to start, and it seems like everybody has the answer except me.
The stress of uncertainty is leaking into all other aspects of my life. Every day is an exercise in civility. My mind is paralyzed, and the only constant thought has been, “you are not enough.”
Too often, all I want is to throw my phone on the floor and give up.
Everything I do — no matter where I go, who I talk to or what I say — is accompanied by self-loathing. Why can’t I be more like them, the people who have it together? And if I can’t be the person who does have it together, why can’t I be someone who managed to climb the invisible mountain and overcome their mental barriers?
I have tried my best again and again, but I always seem to fall short. I fall right into the hands of insecurity and sadness, which makes quite a terrible duo.
I am never enough for myself. Never a good enough daughter, girlfriend, friend or person.
What’s even more frustrating is that I feel like I should have everything figured out by now. I look great on paper: I was just awarded the SUNY Chancellor’s Award, I’m graduating summa cum laude, I got into a great law school and I earned a merit scholarship. But I still feel like a mess.
I know it isn’t just me; many of my peers feel the same uncertainty and anxiety about the future. Mental health among teens and young adults has never been so widely discussed. But despite the discourse around mental health, there still seems to be a disconnect between generations. It still doesn’t feel like older generations understand how dire our situation is, or that the resources they point us to simply aren’t enough.
Meditation stresses me out — the only thing I am able to focus on is my issues — and it fails to bring me the peace I’m always promised. Journaling helps in the moment, but when I look back at my thoughts, I invalidate how I felt at the time. The only thing that works for me is counseling, where I can talk about my problems without hesitation and figure out the best way to handle them.
Choosing to go to counseling was the best decision I ever made for myself. It’s helped me understand myself and my life in a new way.
It’s validating and cathartic.
I am able to counter every “you are not enough” by telling myself, “I am enough” — and I have really started to believe it. Because I am enough, especially on the days I don’t feel like I am. I am doing the best I can and my best is enough.
I am trying.
I have been lucky enough to have friends who help me celebrate my wins and open my eyes to see the intelligent and kind version of myself they see.
I’m trying to fall in love with myself: the girl who shamelessly loves “Star Trek,” who dries flowers and collects them in a vase and who has a parasocial relationship with Taylor Swift.
I am trying to love all of it.
Life as a 20-something is stressful and overwhelming. Sometimes I need to cry (there’s nothing wrong with that, it happens). Other times I feel so happy that when I laugh, my whole body shakes. But if there’s anything I’ve learned and am continuing to grapple with, it’s that I can’t compare myself to others.
But there are still things I — and you, the reader — can control.
We can find out which mental health support works for us and stick to it. Being a human is hard, but there is always help there when you need it.
UB Counseling Services can be reached at 716-645-2720.
Julie Frey is a senior news/features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie Frey is a senior news/features editor at The Spectrum. She is a political science and environmental studies double major. She enjoys theorizing about Taylor Swift, the color yellow and reading books that make her cry. She can be found on Twitter @juliannefrey.