Oracle After Hours: Into the unknown: fear of the future feels less unbearable knowing you are not alone

Mackenzie Bill, columnist

People always told me that junior year would be the hardest year in high school, but I never believed them. 

Until the start of second semester, my junior year was going pretty well. I had a fair amount of homework but could manage all of it. The idea of college was in the back of my mind, but it was not a main factor in my life. Until all of a sudden, the week after finals, I was bombarded with college meetings, test prep and sports starting again. It seemed like I went from zero to a hundred miles an hour.

I began to ask myself, in the midst of all this stress, what is the cause of my anxiety and fear right now? What was behind all of this? I quickly realized it was the fear of the unknown. 

I was feeling stressed because I have zero clue what I want to do with my life when I leave high school and enter the adult world. When I looked online about possible majors in college, I started to spiral, overwhelmed by the options. I ended up shutting my computer and got nowhere. 

I initially was jealous of my friends because they seemed like they had their whole life and future under control. It felt like I was the only person struggling to make a decision about what job I want to do every day for the rest of my life. But after talking to some of my friends about my college preparation struggles, I realized that they are going through the same thing that I am.

I’m writing this not to put my struggles on display, but to tell you that you are not alone right now. 

It is easy to forget that each one of us has probably spent nights staring blankly at Naviance, looking at a seemingly endless list of colleges that you know nothing about.

The way that I have been coping with the stress of college right now is by finding joy in the preparation process. I started to look into colleges that genuinely seemed interesting, even if I might not apply. I looked online at different cities that are diverse, lively and a potential good fit.

When I am at an indecisive point in planning my future, I also like to think back to my personal values. I circle back to some of my main motivations and what matters the most to me, which gives me clarity and helps me manage the stress.

Most importantly, I have come to terms with the fact that I might not know what I want to do with my life for a while. And that’s okay. Something beautiful about high school and college is that it is a time for exploration and figuring out what you love to do. A lot of trial and error will come with that. 

This message is not just for juniors right now, it is for all high school students. The stress of planning for the future puts pressure on everyone, freshmen through seniors. 

Whether you are dealing with college prep, concerns about your future or just the pressure of school, I want you to know that every one of your peers has or will go through this. 

Whenever I express difficulties with the classes I am taking right now or my worries about college, my mom always asks me a question. Will this matter in five years? How about ten? Twenty? 

Maybe it will matter to some degree in five years, but after that I can assure you the trials of high school will seem like valuable life lessons. Having perspective can be very helpful when you are feeling overwhelmed.

My message that you are not alone, I hope, resonates with you.

The unknown of the future can create fear that seems unbearable. But knowing that I am going through it with other high school students makes it seem a little better.