It’s May! Spring is wrapping up and it’s getting hot in Portland; time seems to both speed up and slow down leading up to the end of the school year. This article will appear in the last issue of the Franklin Post for the 2022-2023 school year, which also happens to be my last year of high school. For myself and my peers in the graduating class, this means that plans must be made for the present and the future (terrifying)! For almost my entire high school career, I had planned to go to the very best college that would take me. The idea that college is the epitome of post high school success is widespread in schools. Gradually, this idea began to morph and change, and I eventually found myself in an entirely different place than I had imagined. 

For many students, including myself, who are not continuing their education at a four-year university, the experience can be isolating. Looking around, it has been apparent to me that my friends and people in my classes are making plans that are very different from the ones I am making. As soon as I made my decision to go to a trade school, I knew that the preparation for my postsecondary education was going to be unlike that of my peers who are attending four-year colleges. Obviously. However, it’s one thing to know something conceptually, and entirely another thing to be experiencing it. For a short period, I wondered if I was making the wrong choice, and I would look around and wonder if anyone was in a similar situation.  

Initially, I felt relieved to be free of the college application process: the strict deadlines, the uninspired and pompous essay prompts, and the stress of making a massive financial decision before even receiving your high school diploma. I admired my friends who were going through it, and I engaged with the process and dipped my toes in by editing a friend’s essays. With each essay, I grew increasingly certain that I could do the whole song and dance if I wanted to, but I felt so free knowing that I wasn’t. At the same time, I felt conflicted. Was I making a huge mistake? Was I going to be behind forever because I wasn’t going to college? I don’t think so now, but at the time I felt like I was missing out on something that I didn’t even want to do. That must have something to do with my monkey brain telling me that assimilation and sameness is the key to survival. Spoiler alert: it is not. 

It turns out, doing something different is actually pretty cool, if it is what you want to do and it’s achievable! I am so excited about my future and I love to hear about what my peers are planning, whether that’s college in another country or going into the military (although I do feel like I’ll have a bit of empty nest syndrome once they leave). I found that as I emotionally processed the differences between my plans and my friends’ plans and figured out that my plan was doable, I wasn’t bothered by the difference anymore. So to anyone in a similar situation who is feeling bothered that they are not doing something that a lot of other people are doing, the mantra is that you are exactly where you need to be. Knowing my boundaries and going with a plan that actually excited me when I thought about it, helped me keep a clear head and make a big decision about my present and my future.

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