Where to Go Vs. What to Do

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Through decades of bad hairstyles, poor fashion choices, rap music, and everything in between, the slogan of teen angst has remained consistent: “UGH, I CANT WAIT TO GET OUT OF HERE AND LIVE MY OWN LIFE!” …or something along those lines. Whether you’re from New York City or the northern most point of Alaska, you’ve probably felt like you didn’t belong. You also probably felt this way when your mom wouldn’t let you go out on a school night, but that’s beside the point.

When you get to go to college, you finally get to escape the constant nagging and curfews. But you can get that really anywhere as long as you’re not living with your parents while attending college, so why do we, as an age group, feel that you have to get as far away as possible to escape?

Too many teens value the “college experience” more than actually experiencing college. Too afraid of their parents wrath or too suffocated after 18 years of continual tyranny, they go too far out of the way to get what the media has portrayed as the norm for college. Partying, experimentation, young love, etc. are all examples of what some students so desperately crave more than broadening the horizon of their minds, which can be done more closely to home.

For as long as I can remember, I have been waiting to get out of the dinky midwestern town that some people call home (I prefer the term “infinite holding cell of oppressed creativity,” but that is neither here nor there). Never feeling as though I truly belonged here, I have always found hope in the fact that I would one day leave for college and be able to get as far away from this town and the Midwest forever. My number one priority — after quality of education, of course — has been the amount of miles between the college and Illinois. 

Personally, I have dreamed of a west coast school — preferably Southern California — for years now. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and I knew that as long as the school had that certain program, I was set. But recently, my ideals have been challenged. I have always been in the business of helping others, given my home situation with divorced parents and a twin brother with autism. I took it further when I began volunteering each summer and even further when I decided upon behavior therapy as a future career.

That path floated my boat for a fair amount of time, about three years. It was a great thing to tell people, especially friends of my parents or grandparents. Old people find it strangely comforting to hear young people talk about careers they don’t understand. Things were good until I fully began utilizing my gift with the pen and paper (and the keyboard).

When I decided I wanted to become a writer, or do something involving writing, the distance between the school I attended and my holding cell of a home seemed to lose top priority. Columbia College in Chicago has a comedy writing and performing program that works closely with the Second City Theatre (my comedy nerds out there will be gasping with me on that one), and nothing in the country matches it. When I learned about that program, I finally realized that it’s not where I am that matters, but it’s what I’m doing.

Don’t overcompensate in miles to cover up that you aren’t doing what truly makes you happy. In the words of the great Pam Beesly-Halpert in the final episode of The Office, “Be strong, trust yourself, love yourself, conquer your fears, just go after what you want and act fast because life just isn’t that long.” Granted, she was talking about getting out of a relationship with some jerk and falling in love with Jim, but I think everyone can relate to that. Do what makes you happy and study well, my friends.

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