Hi there papa bear, it’s been a while since last we talked.
I just wanted to talk and let this out to someone. For a while I've been going through a lot of problems, money troubles, second thoughts about school, I just couldn't think of what to do. All the problems just came crashing down on me and I just broke down on myself.
I wasn't ready for any of this... for college... being away from home... or just the real world in general. I wasn't ready for the reality of being on my own... and I still don't know what to do. I tell myself that I shouldn't give up when I'm so close to graduating but I'm still scared, I don't understand anything in the classes no matter how hard I try with the teacher's help. I always feel like I made the biggest mistake of my life even more because I did make a mistake because the one class I wanted to do wasn't even what I wanted. I'm a writer and I can't do any of this game design stuff. But I don't want to let my mom who's struggled so much down.
I don't want to disappoint everyone who wanted me to be here... I'm just so scared.
I'm sorry to put all of that out on you. Thank you for listening papa bear. You don't have to answer this either. I just had to let it all out.
Kageichi (age 19)
* * *
It’s good to let things out, and I know you said I don’t have to respond, but indulge the old bear.
I’m writing because I have been exactly where you are now, and it was the most terrified I had ever been in my life up to that point. I wasn’t really prepared for college, you see. Not so much the academic end of it (although that was true, too), but just the entire experience of being away from home and being on my own. I went from a easygoing high school in a small town to being dumped into the academic anonymity of a huge university (University of Michigan). Never had I felt like such a faceless number in my life. I felt so alone and friendless; the classes they put me in were a nightmare (a huge lecture hall for a calculus class taught by a Chinese professor with a thick accent, a German class taught by an Indonesian, and an English literature class taught by a pompous professor who liked to show off how well he spoke Greek). I was thrust into a dorm room with two guys I didn’t know or like very much. Soon, I was failing my classes and scared to death. You might have read one of my columns where I mention my suicide attempt? Well, this is where it happened. I felt like no one understood how alone I felt, I was terrified that I was failing classes and, consequently, failing my parents. I felt so trapped that the only escape, I thought, was to kill myself, and I almost succeeded.
Let me relate another story—this one is about my sister. She was pressured into taking business classes at Michigan by my father, who didn’t understand her love for biology. She hated all of it, especially her peers who seemed to care about nothing except making money. One semester away from getting her bachelor’s degree, she fled. Up and left. Sent my parents a telegram that she was going West, that she was fine, and to leave her alone. She never spoke to my father again, though quickly reconnected with my mother after my parents divorced. After working a number of odd jobs, she went back to college and now has a doctorate in biology.
There you have it: two cases where kids were so terrified about what their parents thought that it destroyed a family and almost resulted in death. I’m hoping nothing so extreme is running through your mind. I write to you about me and my sister to point out that life is not about pleasing your parents; life should be about doing what is right for you, and only you know what that is.
It sounds to me that you are either in the wrong school or taking the wrong courses or both. You don’t belong in a game design class, clearly, and should be majoring in English or journalism or something related to that. Kageichi, take a deep breath and relax. Talk to a class/career counselor at your school. Perhaps even consider going to a different school. Now’s the time, before you become too heavily invested in the course you are now on (like my sister wasting three and a half years of her studies) you really need to reassess and renavigate. You might lose a semester now, but better to lose a little time than a lot of time.
One of the biggest regrets many people have in their lives when they are older is not studying and preparing for what they really wanted to do with their careers when they were young. You feel like you “made the biggest mistake” of your life? Well, not yet you haven’t. You have not committed too much time at this point, and you still can redirect your life and do what you really want to do.
At age 19 you can’t be too far into your college studies. Many people (in fact, most people) I know changed their majors at least once within the first two years of school. You can do that now. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Decide where you want to be 5 or 10 years from now and then create a plan of action to make that happen.
Hope that helps.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.