It is becoming increasingly clear to me that the second of anything is always the hardest. The second day of work, the second date, the second time cleaning a bathroom, the second day or year of school. On the first day of work or school, you are not expected to know anything. You’re expected to just sort of figure out what you’re supposed to do as you go along. Everyone tells you what you need to know and you just follow. But on the second day, you’ve had some experience. They’ve told you everything you’re supposed to know at least once, and you’re expected to remember. You’re expected to know where to find things and how to get places. The first day is all about the learning. The second day, you’re suddenly supposed to be the expert.
Now, I’m having all these feelings about my second year of college. I’ve done this once before, so I’m supposed to know what’s going on. I’m supposed to what to do and how to act, only I feel just as oblivious as before. I try to remember everything that happened last year and apply it to this one, but suddenly the rules have changed. Everything has shifted and it’s all sliding on top of me. I study, I go to class, I sleep, I eat, I try to remember to smile, but it never seems to work. I still feel unbalanced and confused and as if I’ll never catch up to whatever it is that I’m chasing.
This is not the first time I’ve felt this way. The last time it was this dramatic was three years ago, my junior year of high school. Although it was my third year of high school, it was my second year of “real” school. Because I was a junior, I was expected to learn and do and know a lot more than before. My classes were suddenly harder. Everyone was talking in a weird language of PSATs and APs and it seemed I was expected to suddenly be fluent. October was the worst. That month, I threw up almost every day before, after or during school. I was persistent in my worries. I cried a lot. I studied constantly. I always felt as though I was on the brink of flying apart into a thousand pieces that would probably poke someone in the eye and then I’d have to worry about being sued for damages. I couldn’t breathe. By the end of first semester, I was exhausted, but it also seemed easier.
Now, my symptoms are similar. I’m not making myself sick, I’m not crying, but I worry about the same things over and over. I don’t sleep much. I’m still studying constantly, but nothing I ever do seems to be enough to put me back where I feel safe. It’s like I’m constantly playing a huge game of paintball. I’m getting shot at from all directions, and I have absolutely no idea in what direction I should shoot. Not to mention I have absolutely no idea what color I’m supposed to be. The minute I think I’m purple, I get hit in the arm with purple. It’s a constant, nagging worry, a feeling that I can’t shake. There’s always something there, and as soon as I finish one thing, I have no choice but to move on to the next class, the next paper, the next thought.
And this is the part where I miss home. This is the part where I want so much to begin sobbing with a great wailing and gnashing of teeth. This is the part where I want to curl up into a ball on the floor of my closet and just hide there until someone finds me and tells me it’s going to be okay, everything is going to work out, don’t worry. I want to run and hide so badly. I want to just lie there while it all passes by.
But here’s the thing. If I did run and hide, what would that help? I would just feel horrible the whole time I was hiding and when I decided to return to the world, I would have more problems, more things to face, more mess to fix. I care too much about happening to life rather than letting life happen to me. Everything is too important to miss. Who knows what I would miss while I’m sitting and waiting for someone to find me and tell me I’m going to be okay. Because I can tell myself. If I know the statement “It’s going to be okay” is true, then I have nothing to fear. I need only have faith and believe in my own innate goodness and the innate goodness of life. Max Ehrmann writes, “whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should[…]in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.” My life is infinitely noisy and confusing, but somewhere inside, I can feel the peace, the knowledge that all of life, even the noisy part, is good. And that makes up for everything else.
“I am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday and I love today.” –William Allen