I just graduated college and I've never been on a date in my life.
By Sarah Jaffe
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Dear Miss Information,
I hope you can lend a little wisdom toward me. I'm facing the consequences of a decision I made long ago to start high school at 12. It was offered to me by the school district for high performance on annual achievement scores, not on grades. Since I was being bullied intolerably at the time, I decided it would be best to leave the bullies behind in the dust, and my parents did not disagree.
I don't have any problems or regrets about the decision I made during high school or college. Since I was alone anyway, being two grades higher and still being alone did not seem like all that terrible a change. I also didn't realize what all the fuss was about regarding the importance of high school or college social life. People called me either 'geek' or even worse 'queer' (I'm certainly hetero), just because I kept to myself and stayed vulnerable.
But now the problem begins. I am 19 now, about to graduate with a college degree at an age where people my age are more likely to graduate with a high school diploma. I never really dated in high school or college, and now I’m supposed to be an adult. I really do not know what to do with myself. I know a lot about school but almost nothing about life.
I've spent so much time learning to please others that I don't have the first clue in the world what could possibly please myself. I've never taken a genuine chance with my life because I have always done what I was told. I'm actually afraid of taking chances, because I don't want to ruin my life or other peoples' lives by making the wrong decisions. I'm afraid of wasting my time going down a wrong path which would only result in failure. I hope you can see my dilemma.
— In Arrested Accelerated Development
You’ve done some pretty amazing things, to be sure. Starting college at 15 must be all kinds of daunting, and you must have been busting ass for years to be where you are.
And that’s all the complimenting you get. You’ve done amazing things, sure. but all your accomplishments seem to be running from, not running to. The choices you made were out of fear, not out of excitement. Enough people have patted you on the back for that, and I’m not going to.The wrong path is any path you don’t like being on, so you may already be on it, my friend. It sounds like you have a fine intellect but lack an open mind. I don’t ever buy that line of not knowing what you want or what you like. You know. Somewhere in there, you know you know. You’re just used to keeping your desires in a duct-taped box in the basement. Dust that shit off. Cut through the layers of self-censorship you’ve built around the kernel of your own self and figure out what you really want.
It sounds like you want a life. A real life. You want fun. You want first kisses and joy. You want to be seen and accepted and loved. You want to feel cool and special and like someone’s favorite person. You want to let yourself relax after years of feeling on edge, of carrying around a carapace that doesn’t quite fit. So do it. Graduating college at 19 doesn’t mean shit if you become an insurance adjuster and fail to create real connections. Did you want a degree in what you studied? Or do you have another passion? What did you miss when you missed a real adolescence?
If you’re really confused about what you want, try lots of things. Say yes to everything. That doesn’t mean a mad descent into drugs and that doesn’t mean compromising yourself even more. Travel a bit. Travel a lot. Say hi to the cute person in the coffee shop. Start online dating. Don't try to impress anyone; just be yourself. Figure out who yourself is. Keep a journal. Meditate. Listen to live music. Try settling down in a place with a large student population, like Boston, where everyone is your age if not your experience level. Maybe see a therapist who can help you lay out all your cards and see what's there.
Get comfortable with yourself. Don't be afraid to be a geek. Geeks and nerds make the best adults. Don’t be the guy who cringes at being called a queer. That guy sucks. That guy adds fuel to the homophobic fire and is so ill at ease with his sexuality that he lets other people define him. Be the guy who says yeah, I like theater, I like dressing snappy, I cry at sad movies, I like to use big words or whatever cliché "non-masculine" thing gets your meathead goat. But I also like pussy and I get it because I’m at home in my own skin. Be that guy. That guy’s fun. Build the confidence to be that guy.
Don’t be afraid to take chances. That way lies a lonely, stilted life. You spent college too young to find yourself, so find yourself now before you get swallowed up by the great abyss of responsible adulthood, before you’re shackled by the golden handcuffs of salary and health insurance. You will never be freer than you are at this moment, so get yourself free. Might you bruise or stumble? Yes. Might you have a shitty day or embarrass yourself a little? Of course. But that’s not wasted time. That’s not the wrong path. The only wrong path is a path you can’t live with, and it sounds like you can’t live in restraint any longer. I can't tell you exactly how to do that — only you can. That's part of the fun. But stop being afraid. That's the only way to build the life you want, brick by brick, even if you can't see the blueprints yet.
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