Not a fan of change?

Neither is this high school senior.

Find out how our elder suggests leaving the familiar and embracing the unknown.

Dear EWC:

Hello, I am a senior in high school, and finding myself wishing there was more time before I leave for college.

I know it is exciting and a great opportunity to start fresh and be independent, but I do not think I am ready. I wish there was more time to spend with my parents and siblings, and more time to enjoy high school while it lasts. Every time I think about leaving for college, I get a bad feeling and become very sad. I am not a big fan of change, especially when I am happy with the way things are now. Do you have any advice for me, on how to change my mindset for this next step in my life? Thank you!

Cairnie replies:

How wise you are to be recognizing your feelings at this major time of change. You may be surprised to hear me say that it is also not at all uncommon for graduating seniors to have very mixed feelings such as yours. While on the one hand, finishing high school is an exciting time – recognizing your accomplishments in school, preparing for the next phase of life (often college) and becoming more independent.

Yet as you recognize, there is also sadness in leaving the familiar, the comfortable, the safety of family/friends/routine. My advice is to just feel your feelings. Feel sad when the sadness comes, and feel excited when the possibilities arise.
What you are feeling is change, as you acknowledge. I don’t think feelings change, but we do. So feeling your feelings, naming them, respecting them, and understanding them will help you move through the change. My advice would be to journal your experience right now. Write down all the things you like and make you happy right now. And also write all the things that are making you sad. Sit with these thoughts. Also think about what your life would be like if you stayed stuck in this moment and didn’t move on.
Then keep moving forward. Celebrate the joy of family and friends. Celebrate your accomplishments and achievements. Enjoy the rest of high school, in whatever form that is taking right now. Talk about what you are looking forward to in college, maybe even with others who will be attending the same school as you will be. Acknowledge the now, and anticipate the future with hope and confidence.

I imagine that it feels comforting to focus on how happy you are right now (and how wonderful that is; good for you!) and how scary the unknown of college might be. Yep, that’s exactly what change is, trading the known for the unknown. Everyone finds themselves in these moments throughout life. It takes courage to move forward from the known to the unknown. Yet that is exactly where growth happens.

So my advice to you is basically this. Take deep breaths. Believe in yourself. Know that you will succeed. And build in whatever supports and safety nets you can – find people to share the experience with you. Keep a journal. Challenge yourself to make new friends, join a club, take a class about which you know nothing. Give yourself something to look forward to. Write down your goals and dreams, so when you feel unsure you can reflect back to why you are doing this.

You will be proud of yourself as you move forward and master these challenges. And before you know it, college will be your happy place. And if you find yourself struggling and need support, reach out to a counselor or advisor on campus. Your first semester/year is definitely a transition, and there are people on campus to help you be ready and succeed.

I think you will surprise yourself with your ability to adapt and succeed in college. Talk with your family about how you are feeling now, accept their encouragement, and think about your options and/or ways to get yourself prepared. Sometimes we just need to jump into the deep end of the pool. But it helps if you already know how to swim.


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