Life lessons from the bathroom floor

photo+by+Cassidy+Viox

photo by Cassidy Viox

Kat Sarafianos

The first time I started the Common Application I vomited. Truly. I got up from my chair on the second floor of the Columbia Public Library, walked calmly to the bathroom near the stairs and, clenching my teeth, I opened the swing door and walked swiftly into the tiled, baby powder scented restroom where I quickly kneeled before a toilet and released.
I’m not exaggerating when I say it was then, alone on the floor of a public bathroom, with the sour taste of anxiousness in my mouth, that the monolith of college applications that had been hanging above my head all junior year, slowly getting thinner and thinner, finally hit me.
Every time I tried to think through and organize my thoughts, I got caught up in my lack of future plans. I didn’t know what I wanted to study; how was I supposed to pick a school?
What factors was I supposed to consider when choosing a school? What if I finally figured out what I wanted to do my sophomore year, but I had chosen a school that didn’t excel in that area?
My questions were numerous and difficult.
It was only when I felt my phone notifications buzz did I get up and realize I had been crying for an hour.
The worst part of that experience, and the process of college applications in general, was that I couldn’t pinpoint my frustrations on just one thing.
It wasn’t just that I didn’t know what I wanted to do after high school, it was financial aid and scholarships; it was getting accepted and writing resumés and knowing where to apply.
infographic by Grace Vance
My stress wasn’t just a singular problem I could research and fix, it was like a thousand roots in the ground all stemming to make up one massive tree of uncertainty.
It wasn’t until I met with my friends who had graduated that everything came into perspective. When I spoke to these now glowing, stress-free freshmen about to travel all across the country into new lives, I was in awe.
Gone were the lifeless teens I had known, completely disconnected from anything not related to their applications.
When I asked about how to deal with the stress of senior year, the one overwhelming answer was one that took me a few weeks to understand.
“Don’t worry. Research.”
“Try on each application.”
“Look for scholarships.”
“Be open to change and don’t worry.”
I spent hours pondering their words and trying to think of excuses for how a Vanderbilt freshman could give such stupid advice.
Don’t worry? I didn’t have panic attacks on the unwashed floor of a library bathroom because I wanted to. It angered me that they would expect “don’t worry” to suffice as advice.
But as my early decision application date comes closer and closer, I’m starting to understand what they meant.
At the end of that day, after all your research and editing, the only way to keep moving forward is to not worry. The stress put on these applications will cripple you with fear if you focus on them too much. Don’t let the fear of “what ifs,” ruin the now. Your senior year can still be the epic, picturesque high school experience every Howard Deutch movie makes it out to be.
I know this because at the end of the day college doesn’t decide everything. The reality of the workplace is that you don’t have to graduate from a great school to get a good job.
College, much like RBHS, is what you make of it. You can go to Mizzou, start a club, secure a fantastic internship, study abroad, get a decent GPA and look just as good to employers as the kid who barely made it through Northwestern.
The truth is, you might go through all this work and still not get into your choice school. And that’s okay.
Your entire life is not defined by high school and it certainly isn’t defined by what college you get into. Work as hard as you can, make the most of every opportunity and we will all find ourselves in much better places than we were to begin with.
I say this from a place of concern and friendship: don’t worry.
infographic by Grace Vance