Do I need to fly to make my way in life?
First off, I absolutely adore Marina and the Diamonds. If you haven't heard of this beyond talented British import, please look her up and buy her most recent album. It's a triumph. Secondly, Marina seems to have a lovely way with words. While I was driving back to Holland from my most recent weekend at home, I listened to this album a few times through - and this song, "Satisfied," stuck out to me for a number of reasons.
Are you satisfied with an easy ride?
Once you cross the line, will you be satisfied?
Her words have been on my mind lately, even though it seems a tad cliche. I'm in my third year of college, and since I'm graduating one semester early, I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My time at Hope has not been...easy, for lack of a better word. I never really wanted to come here in the first place; I had my heart set on another University that my parents did not want me at. So, in order to please my parents - and fooling myself into thinking everything would be all right - I went with Hope.
My freshman year was not exactly fun, but then again, whose is? The close friends that I made (literally, just about all of them) transferred at the end of the year. I then went into my sophomore with perhaps one close friend and knowing no one else.
My sophomore year, in retrospect, was very nice. I lived in a great dorm that was more like an apartment, I had great roommates, we all spent time together, and everything was just comfortable and fine. I was finally beginning to feel that I was finding my way at Hope, in Holland - something I thought I would never be able to accomplish. I felt sound.
This year, my junior year, has been the worst go round so far. To make a long story short, I've had something of a falling out with most of my roommates (although these friendships are not completely gone, mind you), my best friend is overseas in Australia, and I went through a painful, confusing, and disheartening experince with the housing process. Next year I will be living with three girls I barely know, and as far as I know right now, two of them may be backing out. I developed a fairly severe form of situational/environmental depression and began experiencing panic attacks. To make a long story short, the past two and a half months have held some of the hardest, most trying and painful times of my young life.
The panic is getting better, and that's not my concern here. My concern is how the entire ordeal of being here at Hope and trying to find my way has allowed me to reflect on other areas in my life. Why did I arrive here? Do I belong here, three years in? What do I want to do with myself after I'm through studying here? Does my number of friends really mean something in the long run? Does having the average college experience really mean something in the long run?
What is, indeed, average?
I was born in raised in the same strict, Catholic home; I have never moved, save for living in Holland while at school. I went to parochial schools my entire life. I wore uniforms. I made close bonds. I dated a few boys, and have been with the same guy - Mackenzie - on and off for the past five years. It's very likely that he and I end up married once we're out of college, but we're not trying to plan that all out yet. I have a car, I appreciate going out with friends, I cry when I hurt, I love popular music; am I average?
Is this entire life of mine - this entire Hope College experience of mine - average?
I'd like to argue that no, it isn't.
Dating someone for five years straight(ish), especially someone from high school, is incredibly below average, I'd like to think. We've had our on and off periods, and I've had interests in other people; but in the end, it's always been him. Are we average because we are trying to make something we believe in work? Are we average because we haven't gone out and "tested" the waters so much?
Coming to a school that I never wanted to come to in the first place, studying my ass off, becoming the editor of its literary magazine, and staying here after having the opportunity to transfer more than once is not exactly average. Most of my friends who didn't like Hope - just like me - left because they could. Because it was easy. Because it was what they needed, what they wanted. I stayed put for reasons that I am still unsure of; they don't matter. I'm still here, and I don't think I'm average because of this fact.
I've had an unfortunate number of friends in my college experience move in and out of my life. It's been quite painful, to put it lightly. I've grown tired of people coming and going and attempting to make new, close connections with people with each new academic year, whereas my close friends from high school seem to be seemlessly securing bonds for life. Jealousy? Most certainly. But perhaps this "friend" problem is of my own doing. Do I try hard enough? Do I really need a large number of people to turn to in order to define who I am, to define my college experience? The Hope College majority would say yes; I tend to say no.
I'm working towards career goals I may never have dreamed of while I was in high school. I edit a small scale literary magazine, I copyedit for a College newspaper, and I have an internship this coming summer with a prominent children's book press in the city of Ann Arbor. I'm attempting to do large things on a fairly small scale. Is this average? Should I be flying, as Marina suggests, in order to make my way in life; should I be out discovering New York or Australia or England?
When I heard this song for the first time, I found myself saying, "Yeah, you know what, I'm pretty average, and I think that I'm all right with that." The more I think about it, the more I think that it's true - I'm all right with that - but I'm certainly not average, at least not as much as I originally thought. I'm just trying to make my way through life, just like everyone else, and hoping to touch some people on a soul-friendly level in the process. Maybe I didn't come to the right school; maybe I did. Maybe I should be dating a lot of people; maybe I shouldn't. Maybe I should have moved around a lot in childhood to learn about my person; maybe I shouldn't have.
Average cannot be defined unless you allow it the luxury of a definition. You're not average; you're an individual.