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College and Life
June sixteenth signified the end of my childhood-or at least my childhood as I knew it.
I pondered this as I was lying on the floor of my high school, the hallways emptied of students and the stray pieces of trash keeping me company. I was resting my head against my bag, aware of the dirt and germs that were sprawling on the ground. Even though it didn't help much, I couldn't find it in me to care.
It was a peculiar situation; even I would have to admit that. While others were exuberant in their quest to leave the building, eager to revel in the joys of summer, I felt the opposite. Doubts that had been swirling in me for the past year had now manifested today, and I desperately needed to calm them. This school which harbored my sweat, pain, and hard work seemed like the perfect place to do so. After all, it had once welcomed me in with open arms and now gave off the impression that it wanted to spit me back out. I sighed.
As a classic overachiever, I had always considered college to be my main goal in life. My parents hadn't made it easier. They expected the best and were unhappy if they felt like they weren't receiving it. The word college may as well have been my first. It was always on my mind, driving me to do everything in order to get into the best. Extracurricular activities and sports had merely been tools to help admission deans see that unlike the other kids who permeate the system, I was different. Stress may have drastically decreased my life expectancy but I always ignored it and believed it to be for the greater good. When I finally received my acceptance letter to Columbia, I thought my life was set.
Then the doubts started overwhelming me.
In my steadfast determination to get into an Ivy League school, I had never considered what I had actually wanted to be. I had loaded up on a variety of AP classes, figuring that it was in my best interests anyway. I listed political science as my major when I applied but as college drew closer, my future seemed bleak. With no definite career plan, I was effectively in a quagmire.
Which is why at the end of the last day of school, I was lying on the dirty tiles of the place that I had mainly seen as a stepping stone to the rest of my life. Staring up at the ceiling, I wondered what exactly I was going to do. A figure came into my line of vision, a smirk planted in his face. It was Rossi Anderson.
He was one of those people who led a charmed existence. Born to an affluent family, he had the intelligence, looks, and social capabilities to remain exactly what he was: a WASP. Unlike me who had to fight for every single grade, he cruised through life and unless if there was a final looming, I never saw him crack a book. Needless to say, I wasn't very receptive to his presence.
'What?' I demanded.
He continued to smirk. 'You do realize that the floor is disgusting right?'
'I know but I got over it,' I snapped back.
'Touchy today, aren't we? Why are you lying there?' he asked. He was now kneeling and his face was only a foot away from mine.
I shrugged. I couldn't feel moved enough to accommodate his curiosity. Noticing my lack of response, he went to lie down next to me. It made me feel strangely uncomfortable.
I glanced over at him, my eyebrow rising. Even though we had been in some classes together, we were never friends. Rossi and I might as well have lived in two different worlds. I said, 'So what are you doing here? I thought you would have left by now.'
'I could say the same thing about you.' He was looking straight up at the ceiling. When he turned his head briefly, I saw that his brown eyes held amusement but not of mockery.
I opened my mouth to respond to him but I couldn't find something to say. For the first time in a while, my expansive vocabulary earned from SAT practice books failed me. 'I don't know.'
'I don't believe that. If I ever knew a girl with focus, it was definitely you. Telling me that you don't know is not going to convince me to go away,' he said.
Realizing that he wouldn't leave me, I went over my choices. I could remain silent and simply get up and leave but today was the day where I needed to think. I didn't want to share a secret with Rossi Anderson; however, this was the last day of high school. I would never see him again unless if I sought him out which I was unlikely to do.
Finally, I admitted to him, 'I'm afraid of the future.'
'Hmm,' he murmured.
'That's all?' I asked, staring straight at him. 'I confess and all I get is an 'hmm'?'
'I'm contemplating it,' he replied. 'It's surprising.'
The feelings that had been building in me finally let themselves be known. 'I thought I had everything figured out. My plan was to take all the advanced classes, get a perfect SAT score, and do anything that was possible for colleges to accept me. Now that I did it, I feel lost. I got too caught up to think about life after senior year. I'm scared now.'
He let out a small chuckle but it wasn't demeaning. 'I feel the same way. It's not just you.'
My eyes widened. 'What? How are you unsure about the future?'
Rossi was one of the most self assured people that I've ever met. Nothing ever phased him whether it was a pop quiz or facing the wrath of an ex girlfriend scorned. It was something about him that I envied.
'Yeah,' he said. 'I have conflicting desires to put it lightly.'
'Conflicting desires?' I probed.
There was a short pause where he tried to assemble his words. He said, 'My family wants me to study economics, you know, so that I can help manage the business after my dad retires. The problem is that I want to study English.'
'I see,' I murmured.
He continued, 'I tried to convince them that my brother would do a better job with the company but they don't believe me. They want me to do whatever they say. You know what the funny part is? The most unlikely person in the world has no idea what he wants to do too.'
'Who is that?' I asked him, a challenge present in my tone. I didn't believe him since his admission had shocked me already.
'What?' I said with shock evident in my voice. I nearly bolted up but managed to restrain myself. 'He's the one person in this school who might have been more motivated to get into MIT than I was to get into Columbia. How is that possible?'
It was true. The kid was obsessed with science and had dreams of being in NASA ever since he knew what the word 'space' meant. I was completely flummoxed.
Rossi chuckled. 'So I guess you're not alone then.'
'Yeah, I'm not,' I whispered. I stared at him, turning the focus back to him. 'So what are you going to do?'
He shrugged. 'I don't know. I can't see any way out of it.'
'Why is the future so hard?' I asked, turning my body to fully face him.
His eyes glistened in thought. 'Because it is. I have no idea why but if it was too easy, what's the point?'
I lay there, absorbing his thoughts. 'Yeah,' I whispered.
A minute passed with both us there on the dirty school tiles. He got up, straightened out his clothes and made sure that his hair wasn't full of dust. Looking down at me, he held out his hand expectantly.
I looked at it, hesitation framing my face. Unlike my hand, it seemed rough and callused, inevitably caused by playing sports three seasons in a row for four years straight. I had no worries that it would accidentally let me go or trick me into doing something that was unexpected. My eyes bore into his which weren't filled with any sort of demands or echoed any sense of rush. They were patient, willing to wait for me to choose.
So I grabbed it and he pulled me up, launching me into the future.