My life felt like it was crumbling. I thought I had prepared so well for college. How could I feel so lost?
I was awake all night pondering job possibilities, analyzing my last few years at IU and searching for potential cities to live in post graduation. The transition into junior year had shaken me. Advising meetings for graduation and recommendations to visit the career center sent me in a frenzy. I couldn't help but feel completely lost in uncertainty.
Little did I know that this was an experience widely felt by most college students. Instead of a midlife crisis, a mid-college crisis involving test scores, credit hours and commencement takes over at the quarter-life mark, according to a USA Today article. It was hard to admit to myself, but your college years are some of the most intense times of your life. You're allowed to let your life fall apart and build it back up again.
A few weeks ago, I realized that my life was not at all what I thought it would be going into my junior year of college. Leaving home after a summer full of family and friends was hard, and within my first few weeks of class, I was rocked by heavy course loads, continuous sickness, a breakup and several conversations about what I wanted my future to be.
It all came to a breaking point when my career advisor asked, "What do you want to do with your life?" How could I answer questions about the future when I couldn't even recognize the life I was currently living?
This was the start of my continuous mid-college crisis. I define it as a seemingly cataclysmic shift of priorities caused by a drive to make a dramatic life change. In college, this could be caused by stress from studies, social anxiety and a drive to live up to expectations set by anyone from friends and family to academic advisors.
For me, there were only two things I knew: I did not know what I was doing with my life, and I had no idea how to fix it.
People told me to get involved and stay distracted from this newfound helplessness when I asked for advice. I joined new clubs, moved the furniture around in my room, decided to try meal prepping, introduced myself to everybody I could in class, moved my furniture back to its original position, all in hopes to stay distracted and save face.
But through all the busy work, I found no relief. Then one night, I realized I needed to let everything come crashing down before I found a way out of the chaos.
It seemed like the best idea I'd had in a while, so I jumped in headfirst.
Step one was processing internal emotions. Any conversation about the future is bound to stir up anxiety, and taking time to process how you're feeling is rarely covered in the career exploration process. For a balanced life, though, it's essential to balance mental health with career achievement. In 2018, 29.5% of college students surveyed by Statista said they felt "overwhelming anxiety in the past two weeks."
On top of that, the Mayo Clinic describes a specific phenomenon called college depression. Adjustments to living with roommates, complicated schedules and entering a new social environment can trigger and highlight depression in college students.
As someone who has struggled with mental illness throughout my life, I can attest that college can drain your mental health in ways you have never experienced before, and mine was declining as I moved into this school year. Because of this, I got in touch with my therapist, and we took time to process my emotions, reflect on my feelings and identify what work I could do to pick myself up and move forward.
Through those tough conversations, I was able to unlock a new interest in public relations and marketing. After a few days, I adjusted my majors and found a group of courses that I was genuinely interested in and felt motivated to attend. I took the time to reinvest in my friends, drop down a few credit hours and prioritize my well-being over packed schedules.
It's only been a few weeks, but I don't feel waves of uncertainty anymore. After letting everything collapse around me, I gained a new insight into my goals for the rest of college and beyond, and I feel much more confident moving through this hectic year.
To those of you who have had a similar college crisis, it's OK. Give yourself grace. You are not alone. I encourage you to feel everything you're feeling. Reach out for support when you need it and find out what you can do to get back on track. It's one step at a time, and your happiness is most important.
Even though there's unrelenting pressure to keep it together, sometimes you just need to let things fall apart. Once you do, chances are you'll know an even better way to put the pieces back together.
Chris Sciortino (he/him) is a junior studying theater and public relations. He is involved with the Queer Student Union and College Democrats at IU and spends a considerable amount of time showing people pictures of his dog, Ellie.