My university and the small surrounding town in which it is located harbors so many memories, both good and bad, that it often feels more like home to me than the town where I have lived since birth. Last year, as my closest friends in the class year above me prepared to graduate and start their futures, I found myself in an almost constant state of nostalgia. I refused to acknowledge the change that was quickly approaching. I looked back on my college years with a fondness so blind that I viewed my environment as a place of security and happiness–willfully forgetting that this was also the place where I have felt the most depressed, the most lonely, the most betrayed. And although I wouldn’t change my college experience, because it has made me into the person I am today, I can’t help but feel like I have outgrown this place and am now being held back from bigger and better things.
Earlier this semester, I went to a pet store and set my sights on a bug-eyed goldfish. I asked the worker there if I could put it in the small, round plastic tank I had purchased. She replied that goldfish grow to their surroundings, and the larger tank that they are in, the bigger they are able to become. So yes, I could put the goldfish in that tank, but it wouldn’t be able to grow as much as it is capable. Sometimes I feel like I am in a too-small tank, and because of that, I am not able to grow any further. I ended up buying a beta fish.
As a college senior in my second semester, it seems like a waiting game until The Big G. It’s strange that, despite the clear purpose of attending college, I feel as if I have learned so much more about life while outside of the classroom. Being abroad taught me that I don’t actually fear change, I fear the lack of it. Living alone has taught me that despite my introverted personality, I need socialization to be mentally healthy. Dealing with toxic relationships has taught me that not everyone deserves to be my friend.
I still have so much more learning to do, but I can’t do it here. College has become a jacket that once made me feel warm and secure but now fits a little too snugly. I have gotten everything I could have from this experience, and although graduation may bring some anxiety for the unknown, I am not afraid to leave this bubble and find new adventure. I notice how excited the freshman are for all the newness and promise that they are surrounded by, and I can see my younger self in their faces, but I also know that I no longer feel that way. And that is fine. It’s good, because it means I have grown. I will have that same excitement in a different place, far away from this one.