Planning on not having a plan Tales from a first-year student

Courtesy of Julia Halvas | First-year student Julia Halvas is finding out that college life is not what she expected.

Julia Halvas | Staff Writer

I came to college with a single set of expectations about what the college experience would be like. It’s been four weeks since I started at Duquesne, and I have to admit, I have no idea what I’m doing.

Whoever said college would surprise me was right.

When I initially started my journey at Duquesne, I was one of the naive people who thought that the second my parents stopped breathing down my neck and dropped me off at Towers, my life would suddenly fall right into place.

Since the first day, this newfound freedom has allowed me to become solely responsible for my future, a future that includes long hours of studying and one day, hopefully, a seat in medical school.

For once, I have control over every aspect of my own daily routine. If I don’t want to go to class, I don’t have to. If I want to stay up until two in the morning, there is no one yelling at me to go to bed.

This new responsibility is suffocating sometimes, even though it seemed quite relieving at first. I am questioning if my future is as certain as I thought.

When I was growing up, people told me that I was always focused and had a good head on my shoulders.

My parents always assured me that I would be okay and that I would have the capability to figure out all of life’s challenges.

I grew up in an environment where my life was placed on a pedestal, and so when I came to college, I naturally felt confident that I could take on the world and succeed.

When my parents dropped me off and said their goodbyes, everything changed.

All the confidence I had built up, all the goals and ambitions I had, went from being romanticized to reality.

I am beginning the new chapter of my life, the chapter where I am in full control.

However, when I was walking back from the parking garage, this time without my mother, I felt uneasy.

All summer I had felt ready to take on the world, yet when my parents left, I felt scared and alone. Even with the 1,500 other students in the same boat, there still is this feeling of isolation.
I am not going to school with the same kids I went to school with for the last twelve years. I am not going to sleep in my own bed anymore, and instead of turning over each night and seeing my sister in the bed beside mine, I see a girl I just met a few months ago.

I’ve come to terms with this new independence. In fact, I am starting to embrace it.

It was at first jarring to look around at my peers and see their future plans even clearer and more well-thought out than my own. I started to lose faith in my own track toward graduation. It seemed as if so many kids knew what they wanted to do in life, so many kids had seats waiting for them in pre professional schools.

So many kids had a plan.

It is clear that my plan has not settled. And I also realize, that it is okay. I came in knowing what I wanted for my future, sort of. I had this nagging voice in my head telling me to not set my soul on anything and to not let the pressure from the people around me alter or cloud my judgment.

This dream I had, or “plan” turned into more of a “pla.” “Pla’s” is a less fully-formed plan, that tends to have the beginning of a plan, but the end is not yet definite.

The idea of not knowing began to scare me and I went to bed every night wondering if I am making the right decision. If I am truly meant to do this.

I have begun to think back to high school and the intense amount of pressure they put on us. For so long, teachers and faculty just continued to enforce this idea that having a plan is essential to be successful and a plan starts with higher education or college.

As the weeks go on, I am meeting so many new people, going through the same experience as me with their own “pla’s.”

I realize that I have to look at my past self, that high school girl who had a life-long plan, and let her go. It is time to move on and let this new, adult me find the “n” to my “pla.”

Even though it has only been four weeks, I have changed a lot. I’ve become more independent and learned to be more social, but I think the most important thing I have accomplished is embracing the unknown and living in the present.

Maybe eight years from now, I’ll look back on my freshman self, who thought she knew exactly what she was going to do, and laugh as I receive my diploma from medical school. Or maybe I’ll be living in New York writing for the New York Times.

Since saying goodbye to my parents that first day, the plan has become less of a priority to my everyday life. Life is crazy and spontaneous, and we never know where we might end up.

What I do know is this: today I am a biology major. I plan to go to graduate with a B.S. and hopefully one day go to medical school. I have fully acknowledged that four years from now or even tomorrow, my mind may change, and that is okay. That is life. I have accepted the fact that I have a “pla” and right now, and at this moment, that is good enough for me.