18 Questions From An 18-Year-Old

  1. Will I cry at graduation? Will I have some kind of weird existential epiphany while sitting on the stage, feeling uncomfortable and anxious about whether or not I will correctly shake my principal’s hand?
  2. Will I ever find a job for the summer? Am I actually going to finish Ulysses this summer? Should I try to read every Shakespeare play before I go to college, just so I can feel more cultured or “prepared” than my peers?
  3. Will I have a cool roommate in college? Considering that I’ll be in Honors housing, and the Honors program at my college consists almost entirely of Pre-Med and other science-y students, will I have a roommate who is majoring in Biochemistry who thinks I’m a loser for majoring in English?
  4. Am I a loser for majoring in English? Am I going to find out that Proust isn’t actually all that fun, or that Shakespeare gets old after a while? Am I going to realize that rather than actually possessing a “passion for literature,” I’ve just been fooling myself all this time?
  5. Am I even going to understand Derrida? Chomsky? Foucault? What if I’m just not smart enough to be an “intellectual?”
  6. Will I survive the transition from a tiny town in which people actually own chickens and cows to a (not terribly large, but ridiculously large by comparison) college city? Am I going to get lost like three blocks from wherever my dorm is, because I genuinely cannot think spatially, and have never lived in a place where you don’t need a car to get around?
  7. Who will I be in a year? Will I be one of the 50%-or-whatever of students who, as the academic advising people inform me, will change their major? What the hell else could I study, if not English?
  8. If I genuinely, authentically wanted to be a doctor four years ago, what am I going to want to be in another four years?
  9. Am I actually going to live in a super hip city someday, or is that like a naïve fantasy that isn’t going to come true? Is my desire to be an intellectual, to be a scholarly individual (whatever that even means), any less clichéd than every ten-year-old girl’s desire to be a veterinarian?
  10. Even if I do turn out to be a good essayist, a “scholar,” is it really going to matter to anyone? Who is going to care or be impressed?
  11. Shouldn’t I be working on my final English paper on Nabokov instead of writing this?
  12. Is it problematic that I haven’t ever really done anything rebellious or teenager-ish? Is it going be like people say, where the kids who never did anything bad are the ones that go crazy and lose it in college?
  13. Will I stay in touch with my friends once we all spread out and do our own thing? Is it true that people pretty much drift apart from their high school friends rather quickly? Sure, there are some friends I kind of wanna punch in the face, but I also kind of want to do lunch with them when we both come home for a visit – will this happen, or am I saying goodbye to most of them forever in a few months?
  14. How will I meet the next person I date? What will he be like?
  15. Will my moral beliefs change radically in the coming years? Will I, for instance, remain a vegetarian, and if not, what will cause me to change that, or anything else that I consider to be a part of who I am and what I care about?
  16. Am I going to gain “the freshman fifteen” once I start college? I don’t want to gain a lot of weight but I’m kind of in love with shitty food and drink ridiculous amounts of Dr. Pepper when I’m anxious; am I going to become obese?
  17. Speaking of anxiety, am I going to experience a significant rise in my levels of stress/anxiety due to the transition to college? If so, how on earth am I going to handle that?
  18. What am I going to be when I grow up? Am I going to teach high school (if I do, is that like the expected thing for an English major and does that make me uncool?), or will I decide to do something else? What will that something else be? Will I love what I do? I hope so. TC mark


More From Thought Catalog

  • http://www.facebook.com/TomSmizzle Tom Smith

    Nobody actually finishes Ulysses, I wouldn't worry about it.

    • http://typicalnut.blogspot.com Bema

      Since nobody actually finishes Ulysses, you'll get more points anyway for starting with Finnegan's Wake.

  • Rachel Z

    May I request email correspondance??

    • Shannon Eskola

      For real? I'd be delighted. What's your email?

  • Sarah Jane

    I love this, it's so relatable. I just finished my freshman year of college, and at one point in time I asked myself all of these questions.

  • Vee

    “She wrote her college application essay on her crush on James Joyce” and yet she has not finished Ulysses. Ordinarily there would be be no shame on the Ulysses front, but does this not make her essay slightly fraudulent, or at the least poorly researched?

    • Rachel Z

      A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

      • herecomesth3sun

        And, of course, Dubliners.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CaseyJonesATX Casey Jones

    This beats O'Connell's borderline obsessive teenage sentimentalism, but dude gets a pass as he writes everyday I guess. You seem really anxious, but that's probs pretty normal, shows you're invested in yourself. You probably won't understand Derrida's work itself, but deconstruction is easy to grasp.

  • Lauren K

    Speaking as someone who just finished their freshman year of college as an English major, you'll be fine. I was in a similar place at this time last year, and I learned to just figure it out as you go. Whatever. You probably will change your mind about what you want to be,  and that's the beauty of an English degree- its versatile.

  • professor bum

    I went through the whole “intellectual” thing when I graduated college, not high school. Boy do I feel dumb.

  • Aelya

    Much of what people lament about college (weight gain, for instance) only happens because you gave it a chance to happen. You have more control than you give yourself credit for!

    When it comes to Foucault, all lectures concerning this man should be spent without distraction. Turn the Wi-fi off, put your phone on silent. When you finally understand, in the purest most concentrated way, what he's talking about, the feeling is great.

    And from one Honour English major to another, yeah Shakespeare gets old after a while. Sigh.

  • Calla

    The answer to most of these questions can (and will) be answered with a packed bowl.

  • 23YearOldLawStudent

    1. Probably not, but maybe. You will be nervous, but you will also be bored. Afterwards, you will feel a little different but pretty soon, as you lay in bed at night, you will realize not much has changed in a day.
    2. Yes, but it probably won't be one you love. And that's a good thing. I learned more in jobs I hated than jobs I loved. It's not comforting advice, but it's everything someone goes through. Don't read anything before you go to college unless its for your own enjoyment. Nothing can prepare you for college, so spend your last summer finding out what it is you truly love.
    3. Maybe, maybe not. Aside from the irritations of spending a room with someone, people vastly overstate the importance of their roommate's “coolness.” You might be best friends forever, you might tolerate each other for a year and move on. Either will make you a better person. Some of the most interesting people I know (including myself) were honors students. Never, ever confuse intelligence with dullness. I didn't realize how fun smart people could be until I started grad school. Equally intelligent people major in English and Biochemistry. I can't remember ever looking down on anyone for their major, but I majored in psychology. Not sure who I would have looked down on.
    4. No. As for discovering you're not that into it, maybe, but then you'll get to #7 and be no worse off for it.
    5. Yes. College is 90% how hard you work and 10% how smart you are. I wish someone had told me that in the beginning. Maybe you have to read Chomsky three times before you understand it as well as someone who read it once. That doesn't make you any less valuable, and in fact, probably makes you a much better person for putting in the effort.
    6. If you get lost, you'll find your way back. If you can't, you'll ask someone. People tend to be more friendly than you expect. Either way, everything will be fine. I'm sure you're familiar with this quote: http://www.brainyquote.com/quo
    7. Maybe you'll change your major. I didn't, but most people I know did. I think more people fall into that category who start out as accounting majors and follow their passion to English, than the alternate scenario. Who knows. Part of what is exciting about college is following your passion, so if it leads you elsewhere, don't be stubborn about it.
    8. Four years younger, probably.
    9. Never forget that despite what anyone says, you are the master of your own destiny. I chose between grad schools in New York City, which I fantasized about, or a small college town with an equally good program. I chose the small college town, against my fantasies, and it's been the best year of my life. There's always time to move, to go to that super hip city. Fantasies don't die until you let them. Never let anyone tell you what your desires should or shouldn't be. You're in control.
    10. No one. Maybe your parents or your little sister or students in a future class, but not many outside of that. Which is why you don't do it for anyone else, you do it for yourself. Care about yourself and impress yourself and the rest wont matter.
    11. Maybe, but I have work I should be doing too. This is more fun. Your paper will probably get finished, and you'll probably get a good grade on it.
    12. The kids that go crazy in college are the ones that want to do bad things, but couldn't until then. Do you want to do terrible things? Then yes, probably. But there's nothing wrong with going a little crazy in college. Just know your limits and don't push them too far. A hangover is bad, a jail cell is much, much worse.
    13. I graduated high school 5 years ago this June and have about 5-6 close friends who I talk to regularly, as well as 20 or so that I enjoy running into from time to time. It's not as sad when it actually happens. You keep in touch with the people you care about and let the rest drift away. It's practical, and it's life. There's nothing you can't do about it.
    14. Also seen in: 19 questions from a 19 year old, 20 questions from a 20 year old, 21 questions from a 21 year old, ad infinitum. 
    15. Possibly. Things changed about me that I didn't expect to in college. Remember that nothing is forced on you. If you change, it will be because you wanted to.
    16. A lot do. I did. My advice: Switch to Diet Dr. Pepper (it's almost as good, and just as good once you get used to it), and get plenty of exercise (you can always spare 30 minutes in a day for a jog). I gained 30 pounds in college but am now in the best shape of my life.
    17. Yes, at first. It's a different environment which is always stressful but it's also exciting and fun to be in control of yourself. While the amount of responsibility is scary at first, it becomes liberating within a few weeks or months.
    18. Older. And if you teach high school, please be passionate about it. The world needs more people willing to express themselves like you. If  you don't love what you do, quit and start something new while you have time. 

    -Advice from a 23 year old who remembers all too well what it was like to be you.

  • O'Malley

    I can't tell you if you will become more stressed and anxious in college, but I can tell you there is help out there for you. Almost every university has a counseling office, and while I can't speak for all of them, the one I work at offers our services free to all students. You meet with licensed psychologists & M.D.'s who keep all of your information private (doesn't link to student records)
    Furthermore, they can work with your professors to get you the help you need, whether it's a few extra days on a project or special testing arrangements. I know it seems big and scary but for the most part everyone at the university wants you to succeed and is prepared to help you in any way they can.

  • http://dzine-studios.com Dan

    Being an English major is a terrible mistake, unless you want to be an English teacher. You'll end up broke and possibly homeless, writing articles for Thought Catalog *cough*

    • http://www.facebook.com/nsweo Naomi Sweo

      There are many things you can do with an English degree. Instead of thinking strictly about what you like doing right now, think of what you'd like to work as later.  I'm graduating this year with an English degree, but I now wish I was a World Literature major or a Writing major, because rather than be an English teacher or have a broad knowledge of literature over the ages, I wanted to learn about modern literature and techniques of writing today. (I want to go into publishing.) Think ahead, but don't be swayed from what you like to do. A lot of people don't get being an English major, but if it's your passion, nothing else will satisfy you.

  • Tinkikiwi

    1. You might. The epiphany will probably come later in the summer, possibly after a few friends have moved to their colleges already.
    2. Good luck finding a job, you're leaving in a few months. Not worth the training. You'll decide you want to read Shakespeare, but you won't get around to it because OMG I'm never going to see my friends again. At least until next summer.
    3. Not sure how all colleges do this, but honors at mine put people in the same college together. You might have a super nerd, you might have a classics major. You don't actually have to be best friends with your roommate either. As long as you aren't killing each other, it usually works out alright.
    4. As long as you can find a career after you graduate, no problem. Besides, you can always sing along to Avenue Q songs if you major in English.
    5. If you're writing for thought catalog, you shouldn't do to badly.
    6. I survived. Somehow. Public transit isn't that hard, and carrying a map is a good idea.
    7. You might be. I can't predict the future. Only time will tell.
    8. See answer for question 7.
    9. If you're on a campus, it's actually a little hard to realize that you are where you are. The college is your city, and while you may venture out every once in a while, it's really the campus that is your setting. As far as being cliche, we all have dreams. Follow yours, I'll follow mine.
    10. Isn't fulfilling your own goals going to impress yourself? This goes back to question 4, actually. Your degree isn't as important as what you end up doing with it.
    11. Yes.
    12. The most “losing it” that I did in college was staying up until 5 in the morning talking, watching anime, and playing Magic the Gathering. I'm sure you'll be fine. 
    13. Yes and no. You can stay as in touch with your friends as you want to. A few friends and I kept a facebook message board running through the entire school year. We planned visits on breaks. With all the technology available, it is very difficult to say goodbye forever. There's always email to get back in contact. Lunches are your new best friend. 
    14. When you find the answer to that, tell me. 
    15. I'm still a vegetarian. You might open your eyes a bit more, but people aren't going to try to force you to change your ways. Unless you take feminism courses, in which case, you'll be bombarded by “gender stereotypes” until your brain turns to mush.
    16. See, this is where the vegetarian thing will help you out a lot. I did gain a few pounds (probably all of the late night ice cream runs.), but don't worry about gaining weight too much. Stay active (walking to classes helps) and don't get an eating disorder. You'll be fine.
    17. Stress happens. Projects, finals, bad break-ups two weeks before finals… It happens. Don't procrastinate, it sucks. Find something that relaxes you (playing guitar, listening to music) and most importantly, talk to people if you're having too many problems. Friends are you friends. They're there to help you (and they're probably dealing with similar problems. Strength in numbers!).
    18. Just be optimistic. Nobody can see the future

    There you go, 18 answers from an 18 year old.

  • Scarlett Losch

    I want to answer all these questions for you! I just finished first year and I asked myself these same questions almost verbatim!

  • fveg

    1. Probably not while the ceremony. Afterwards? For sure.

    2. No. Since you won't be getting a job, yes. No.

    3. No, definitely not. And if they're pre-med, they'll be too busy to care.

    4. Kind of. 

    5. I can't answer that for you. Since you're 18 and you know of their existence, I'd say you're ahead of the curve.

    6. It'll be a culture shock probably, but not as bad as you're thinking. College campuses are generally pretty easy to navigate, and unless your campus melds with a metropolitan area (like Portland State) you will be fine.

    7. Yeah, probably. You'll take a class that seems really interesting and you'll change your major. I'm a junior and I've changed mine three times now.

    8. Again, who knows. You don't need to have these things figured out. Go with what your gut tells you.

    9. It partially has to do with luck & where you can find work when you graduate. But if you really want to live somewhere, go for it. Nothing should hold you back.

    10. You don't need an audience for whatever your mind creates. You are your harshest critic and biggest fan.

    11. No. Fuck high school.

    12. Probably not. I was actually more wild in high school, and since I've gotten to college I've joined university organizations and gotten more serious about my school work. It's up to you to decide if you have the time and energy to dedicate to going out and doing teenager things.

    13. I have the great pleasure of going to college in the same town I went to high school in, so I run into old classmates wherever I go, even the ones I'm on bad terms with. For the most part, I don't speak to the majority of my high school friends, except for my very closest ones who I talk to pretty much daily. It's up to you to put the effort forth to keep those relationships alive.

    14. Join clubs on campus that are relevant to your interests. Go to parties. Go to coffee shops to study. Who knows!

    15. If you really believe in being a vegetarian, you can stick to it. A college student's diet is not very vegetarian/vegan friendly, so unless you have a very progressive campus, you're going to struggle.

    16. Yes. Without a doubt. Spend most of your free time working out, or at least keeping in shape. 

    17. Probably. Imagine your high school stress level is a steady 4 throughout the year and spikes to a 7 during finals. College is like a steady 7 that spikes to a 10 during finals and midterms. Enjoy.

    18. Being a high school teacher (or a teacher at any level) is very cool in my eyes and a noble job, especially if you enjoy doing it. Hopefully by the time you've graduated and landed a job, teachers will be treated better in terms of salary. Your options are wide open though, don't limit yourself!

  • Robert Foster

    my advice for the 18 year old me would be:

    try not to be too earnest, it doesn't last and looking back, you'll shudder with embarrassment. 
    have a sense of humour about yourself.

    don't put everything off, suddenly you'll be 28 and you won't have achieved as much as you'd hoped.

    • JB

      I actually miss my youthful earnestness and enthusiasm now that I'm older and jaded.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=707272007 Alex Thayer

    people, keep your answers to yourselves.  no need to ruin the surprise!

  • http://twitter.com/nanabuuui Anna B

    “If I genuinely, authentically wanted to be a doctor four years ago, what am I going to want to be in another four years?”
    I came to college as a pre-med student. I'm graduating as an English major.  Foucault and Derrida still confuse me and my emphasis is literary criticism. Cheers!

  • Ian

    If you want a summer job don't tell them you're going off to school at the end of the summer

  • CC

    1. Probably. You will also shake the principal's hand correctly. 

    2. You'll find a job for the summer. Try to finish Ulysses (because Ulysses is amazing, not so you can say you've finished Ulysses) but save some Shakespeare plays for later. 

    3. My roommates freshman year were two Pre-Med students (one Biology, one Neuroscience major) and we ended up rooming together all four years of college, even though I don't understand their science stuff and they don't understand how depressed I am at losing JStor access after graduation. But our fourth suitemate was actually crazy and cutting her out of my life is one of the best things I've ever done, so it's kind of a mixed bag.

    4. No. English is awesome and Shakespeare never gets old. Just don't get bogged down in the academics of it all and forget how amazing it is to just read. 

    5. Derrida is revelatory, understandable on a visceral level even when he communicates via paradox (he's the Zhuangzi of Literary Theory), Chomsky is actually pretty readable, Foucault was difficult for me but it helps if you come from the direction of critiques and analyses of Foucault (there are plenty). You're smart enough, I'm sure. 

    6. I moved from a sheep farm to New York City for college. You'll be fine. 

    7. You'll be someone different. There are a lot of things to study that aren't English. 

    8. In four years, you will have no idea what you want to be. 

    9. Moving to New York, at least, is not as hard as people make it sound. You are already well on your way to being a “scholarly individual” – the question is what are you going to do as a scholarly individual. 

    10. You would be surprised at how bad most people in the world are at writing. Being a good writer will be a skill that will help you in any field, every day. 

    11. lol no

    12. It's not problematic, but you will probably go crazy and lose it in college. I recommend it highly. 

    13. You'll keep in touch with the friends who matter to you if you make the effort.

    14. You'll meet him at one of the million clubs you join during your first week of college and then never really participate in. He'll be super awkward but kind of cute and he'll make you feel relaxed and excited at the same time. 

    15. Your moral beliefs might change, but more likely they'll become sharper and more nuanced. Of course you'll stay a vegetarian, college is like vegetarian central. 

    16. You'll gain some weight but you'll learn it doesn't matter as long as you're healthy. Don't become a soda junkie, soda is basically Satan. 

    17. Depends. You'll experience a different type of anxiety – I lost all the anxiety that came from living with my parents and gained some anxiety that comes from having to be a functioning adult (and dealt with it, kind of.) 

    18. You'd be surprised how many careers there are in the world and how many of them will allow you to use the skills you gained in college without being directly about them. But being a high school teacher is absolutely cool. You'll love what you do if you do what you love.

  • http://twitter.com/LulabelleNiche Gabrielle Bodek

    “If I genuinely, authentically wanted to be a doctor four years ago, what am I going to want to be in another four years?”

    After 3 years in college I'm still asking myself a similar question. The beauty of that uncertainty is that 4 years ago, did you imagine yourself where you are now? It probably never even occurred to you, no matter how much pondering over the future you did, to imagine the exact situation you would be in right now. So in that same anxious uncertainty lies the CERTAINTY that you can definitely NOT predict where you will be and you will probably be way better off/ in a completely random place than you ever imagined you would be in.

  • sjd

    Set lofty goals. otherwise, what's the purpose of setting a goal?

    dream hard, dream strong, dream beautifully, but be ready for the blades of grass poking your eyes when you fall flat on your face to cut most of them into ugly shards that need be molded together under a fresh light.

    don't take the pursuit of an english degree too seriously so soon. read, study “important” works, WRITE, WRITE, WRITE, but don't forget to enjoy the words.

    Leisure is essential.

    Don't be stiff.

    Gertrude Stein commented that Picasso had no need to keep the company of other painters, instead, he associated with writers. Integrate this practice in your own experience. Cavorting with other types, those who are known in the world of university as Non-English Majors, will work wonders for your creativity.

    To learn how and what to write about, how to judge truth and quality of and through thought and expression, avoid identifying as a student. University is an insular world regardless of location. Being broke and living at school is vastly different from living on a bookstore couch 1500 miles from the place called home.

    the pedagogy of judgment is not taught in University.

    don't be afraid to leave and learn.

    don't be afraid return

  • Upthebracket

    Just a hint: don't name-drop at college to make you sound smarter. You will only come off as looking more insecure than you evidently already are.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6V5ZHG4UNYQUOSKM2YJNGM2SRI Shannon

      Don't worry, I’m
      poking fun at myself and the fact that I need to aggressively namedrop in order
      to feel intellectual/superior (reminiscent of LCD Soundsystem’s Losing My Edge,

  • aestheticallychallenged

    18 Responses from a 20 Year Old College Junior

    1. Doubt it.  The ceremony itself is boring and the feeling probably won't hit you until you exit the building for the last time.

    2. A) Probably not in this economy.  Babysitting/lawn-mowing is your best bet. B) Depends on how much you motivate yourself. C) Maybe if you're taking a heavy English course-load first semester.  Don't do it to impress people.

    3. It's really all up to chance, honest truth.  You'll more than likely end up with different roommates; by the end of September the Roommate Shuffle is in full swing.  Coolness may vary.

    4. No, you're not a loser for majoring in English.

    5. You don't have to be an “intellectual” to survive in college, even if you're in honors stuff!  Just do all your homework and study, get a good GPA.  It's nothing like high school.

    6. Yes, you can do it!  Adjusting to a new environment is hard, but not impossible :)

    7. You'll learn from experience, trust me.

    8. You don't need to decide now.  You really don't.  Your goal as a freshman is to expose yourself to as many different things as possible and then find out what you like.

    9. Depends on what you want to do and where you want to go.

    10. Your professors.

    11. That's probably a good idea.

    12. This is the perfect opportunity to break out and be as crazy as you want to be!  See #8.

    13. For the most part, you'll probably only talk to a few people from high school.  Mostly your closest friends.  Most of your classmates will move on and forget about the rest of you.  That's where reunions come in.

    14. See #7.

    15. See #7 and #8.

    16. This depends on how often you eat at the cafeteria and how much time you spend in the gym.  So basically you have a  50/50 shot.

    17. Yes.  But you have a lot of resources: your RA (or other RAs in your building) and your school's counseling center (free therapy!).

    18. Hell I don't know.  See #9.

  • Mike

    seriously and deeply reconsider majoring in english. what do you expect to come out of this degree? soon you'll be 22 or 23 withe degree and then what? be careful making big choices. avoid debt as much as possible. save as much as possible.

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