John Lynch is a freshman Journalism news major and writes “Manifesto" for the Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to John at email@example.com.
All throughout high school, I questioned my capacity to survive in the college world.
This questioning was a constant source of anxiety and self-doubt for me. The ticking clock on how much time I had left with my friends and family pressured me as the summer of 2018 passed, and I came ever closer to the start of my freshman year of college. Had the first month of college not provided me with the experiences it has so far, I would still be asking whether that pressure had been worth it.
So far college has been just the challenge I needed. Better yet, it has been a challenge with a purpose. The classes I’m taking actually contribute to my interests, unlike some of the general subjects of high school that I knew I would never use again. College has given me a sense of legitimacy in both my classwork and my future aspirations, which I can easily chalk up to be the “It’s finally happening!” factor.
However, I didn’t always feel this way towards this new chapter of my life.
Initially, I wasn’t sure I had made the right choice about attending college, let alone attending Ball State. Oddly enough, the moment I knew I was on the right track was when I was sitting in my dorm at 11:30 p.m., watching an episode of Netflix’s “BoJack Horseman.”
In the new season of the show, a character named Diane travels to Vietnam, intent on reconnecting with her heritage. Over the course of the episode, Diane writes a BuzzFeed-style article titled “10 Reasons to Go to Vietnam.”
After the fairly funny first nine reasons on this list, the tenth reason hit an emotion so deep inside me, I didn’t even know it existed until a nihilistic cartoon pointed it out to me.
Reason 10 of Diane’s list was simply titled “Because You've Got To Leave To Come Back Home.” This was a sentiment I only realized I had been living every day when a month of my life slipped by on this campus, and I had no feelings of homesickness anymore.
In my hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin, I had no reason to truly push myself or to step outside the comfort zone I had built over the past 18 years. If I wanted to progress in my goals and as a person, that comfort zone had to be broken.
I removed myself from my hometown by six hours, a time zone and 300 miles, and it turned out to be the right choice. I learned that we only really grow when we change enough of ourselves to effectively reach our ideal standard of life. Though it wasn’t easy by any measure, I know leaving the life I had become so comfortable with helped me connect with the kind of life I wanted to live.
I needed the change, or more accurately, my sense of personal motivation needed the change. In the months between the end of high school and the start of college, I lost much of the drive that kept me going through my last months there. Senior year was a pretty great time: I found a profession I really enjoyed, my friends and I had a great bond and I was at an all-time creative high.
Then summer came, and it all went downhill.
With no creative outlets like the ones I had in high school, there was no incentive for me to push myself. Why would I need to care if there was nothing and no one to prove my skills to?
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that I lost touch with part of myself, either. The worst part about not doing anything was that I was fine with doing nothing. I was actually doing plenty of things, like working and hanging out with my friends. But I wasn’t doing anything to work towards my goals in life.
College turned out to be the perfect motivator. Dorm life, the study-oriented environment and the sense of genuine control over my life was the perfect setting for me to push myself beyond what I could achieve at home. Classes and activities bring out the qualities I like in myself again, and I can say that without that source of motivation in my life again, those qualities would have been buried for good.
There was a cost, of course. When I separated myself from my hometown, I missed out on the happenings of all my friends and family. Even though I know I will see everyone again, nothing will diminish how painful it was for me to see them go.
But when we break our comfort zones, the relationships we have with the people in those systems are pushed and sometimes even broken. Leaving that comfort can be jarring, but in truth, progress is often found in the discomfort.
Nothing is guaranteed when we push past our point of comfort, into something new and often scary. But the risk is worth it. I’ve matured into a better writer, a smarter worker and a more driven person in general as a result of leaving the world I knew.
As the nihilist cartoon so wisely put it, in order to come home, we just need to leave.