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The Instability of Young Adulthood

Updated July 19, 2021

I am a twenty-year-old college student. This fall I will begin my senior year at Vassar College, and then I will be thrown head-first into the world of real adulting. I have loved college and I am excited for what is to come after graduation. However, the last three years have proved challenging in many ways. This time in my life has oftentimes felt extremely unstable. Things are constantly changing, I’ve gained and lost relationships, and since I go to college so far away from home, I have to pick up my whole life and move every 3-5 months. All of this on top of learning how to budget, apply for jobs and internships, travel by myself, be independent, and prepare for life after college. It can be a lot to manage.

A lot of you might be in this time of your life already, or if you are in high school, you might be preparing for college and looking ahead to this period. I am here to tell you that it can be difficult, yes—but it can also be extremely rewarding. We are only pushed to grow when we step outside of our comfort zones. Sometimes the scariest things can reap the greatest rewards.

A lot of people experience shifts in their relationships and friend groups when they leave high school.

It’s simply impossible to maintain exactly the same friendships if you live in different places and lead different lives. This is okay. Life after high school gives you the opportunity to meet so many new people and form new relationships. You might even have more in common with these people than your high school friends. In college, you are more likely to make friends with people through your classes and extra-curricular activities, which automatically means you have something common. In K-12 school, you may have just made friends circumstantially.

Let yourself be open to meeting new people.

That’s not to say abandon your high school friends—by all means, stay in touch. But you might find that for some people, the effort the maintain the friendship goes both ways, but for others, it takes a lot of energy to try and keep up. If that’s the case, don’t feel bad about not talking all the time—you should be able to spend that energy on the new relationships you’re forming. Good friends will be able to pick up where you left off when you see each other again.

If you go to college away from home, you might also experience having to move back and forth a lot.

For me, this has been one of the hardest parts of this time in my life. While I love experiencing new things and getting a change of scenery, it oftentimes takes me a while to adjust to a new location. I oftentimes feel like I have to uproot my life every few months. Not only do I have to change what I am surrounded by, the people I live with, and the friends I hang out with, I also have to pack. A LOT. And since I go to college in New York but live in Iowa, this packing process can oftentimes be quite tedious. It involves sorting, shipping, storing, and a ton of time and organization. If I have one piece of advice, it’s to minimize your stuff. The less stuff you have, the less you will have to pack!

I am somebody who grows very attached to my friends, family, and surroundings.

If you’re like me, this unstable period of life might be really hard. Sometimes I feel like just when I have finally adjusted, it is time to move again. However, this instability also has a lot of benefits. I have made amazing friends that I would have never known had I not gone to Vassar. The biggest move I have made during college—going to Chile to study abroad—was one of the best experiences of my life. Even though big change can be scary, it is important to push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Otherwise, you will never learn and grow. And with every tough experience, I get a little stronger. If you are heading into a period with lots of change, I hope you remember that change is good. You are not losing a past; you are simply gaining a future.

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