My obsession with the little details became evident at age 10 when my fifth grade teacher told the class to look up the word “meticulous” in our hardcover Merriam-Webster dictionaries. She then proceeded to say how everyone except me, who had apparently already refined the art (or curse) of paying attention to detail, needed to be more careful as we learned integers and memorized U.S. state capitals. Since then, I’ve often described myself as a control freak. I like to have a plan, and I like to follow that plan step by step.
However, I now find myself right on the brink of a life experience for which I can’t have a step-by-step plan: college. The transition from high school to college epitomizes growing up, so I always thought I’d welcome it with pure excitement. But now that the highly-anticipated time has come, I’m realizing that I’m just plain scared.
The unsettling fact that I’m leaving home in three and a half months has spurred me into a frenzy of trying to control every single detail. I’ve checked the boxes on my online portal checklist that remind me to find a roommate, submit my housing contract and take placement tests. I’ve initiated Facebook message conversations with other students in an attempt to find potential friends and study buddies. Although I failed to stick to my four-year academic plan during my Palo Alto High School career, I’ve diagrammed out the classes I need to take for my intended major (which, of course, is liable to change).
But I set myself up for disappointment when I think I can manipulate every aspect of my college experience. As much as it bugs my germophobic inclinations, it’s guaranteed that I’ll get sick. When that happens, I’ll have to manage without my grandma bringing me a pot of turkey soup and a carton of coconut water, which she claims does hydration wonders. And when I struggle to get up for an early-morning class, I’ll have to get used to the harsh beep of my alarm clock waking me up, not the voice of a loving parent coaxing me out of bed.
I also can’t avoid the psychological challenges I’ll have to face — my inevitable homesickness, yearning for a room to myself or craving for my mom’s home-cooked noodles. I’ll miss my high school friends when we’re spread out all around the country. I’ll experience the fear of missing out. In the grand scheme of things, I absolutely have no control.
Yet, despite my desire to believe otherwise, there is something beautiful about spontaneity. I’d like to believe that growing up is a hurdle I can overcome all at once; everything afterward will be neat and perfect. But unfortunately for Bethany The Control Freak, that’s not how life works. Growing up is not a series of tasks on a checklist. It’s ongoing, marked by accomplishments and failures along the way. As difficult as it is for me to accept, growing up means embracing the inevitable discomfort and uncertainty of life, not running away from it.
With that in mind, I’ll try to channel an attitude of open-mindedness as I handle my transition into college. Yes, dorm food will get boring, and, yes, it’ll take some irreversible laundry mistakes to teach me a lesson about remembering to separate the darks and the whites. I’m sure I will make choices I wish I hadn’t, but they’ll shape me positively in the long run. After all, college is about learning more about myself, and it’s OK, even healthy, that the experience will be messy. Whether I like it or not, my meticulous self will just have to learn to deal, for such is the game of life.