You Are Entirely Up to You


Annie Zwisler

Illustration by Miranda Sepúlveda

College was always the end goal for me, no ifs, ands or buts. After high school I would be headed to higher education. Even though nowadays college is more of a requirement, it has always felt like my calling, as it does for many. As a child, I dreamt of being a librarian due to my extensive love and knowledge of books. I drank words like lemonade, and I was enveloped in the world of realistic fiction. I always loved the ladies that sat behind the counter who would scan the bar tag on my chosen few. “Bring these back in two weeks,” they would say with a smile as my little heart could not contain the excitement of these brand new fictional worlds. As I grew older, the librarian vision began to fade as I learned more and more about the world and the issues that faced me in my adolescence. After joining my high school mock trial team, I had a new goal: a lawyer. Reading cases, doing research and writing cross-examinations brought me joy like those books I read not too long ago, and I was hooked. I decided on Kent State for my undergrad and to ultimately pursue law school with a journalism/pre-law degree. My journey to success I always dreamed of had begun. 

I always considered myself“ambitious.” Many close to me would probably say “insane.” I always put school work ahead of countless other things in my life, the largest being my social life. I find it more fulfilling to stay home and get through my work than to go out and party. I have spent countless Friday nights at my desk in my room, pouring over texts and writing like I had no time left in the world. In all honesty, I spent a lot of those nights thinking to myself, “You are so much better than all those people who are out tonight. You get all your work done on time in a professional manner. You’re being your best.” In reality, when I turned off the lights and went to sleep at a crisp 11 p.m., I felt really lonely. I could hear the shouts and laughs of the people outside (this of course is before COVID-19), and I didn’t quite know how to feel. Am I doing college wrong? Should I be out making friends? Am I wasting my younger years by working myself to the bone? 

I have never been to a frat party before. I had no interest. Feeling sweaty, getting drunk and the potential to be surrounded by people I don’t know does not sound like my ideal night. I never even drank until my sophomore year of college. I was always afraid that my life would turn to shambles if I consumed alcohol, so parties were a no-no, as drinking was always part of the social norm. My first college “party” was when I joined my acapella group, Flash Harmony. I went with a couple of good friends to University Oaks where all of the Kent State acapella groups would be at somebody’s apartment. I remember anxiety overcoming my body as soon as I stepped into the house. My heart started beating so fast as I stared blankly into the faces of strangers. My friends disappeared, and it was up to me to try and save myself. I felt absolutely petrified. I couldn’t escape the thought of, “I shouldn’t be here. I should be in my room, at my desk and writing my research paper for Monday.” I found it hard to breathe as I started to rub at my thighs and my knees, a coping mechanism I developed when I start to get anxious. After my friends dropped me off at my apartment, I cried in my room at the embarrassment of the evening. Maybe “college” is not for me. Maybe fun is not for me. 

That was over a year ago, and I still grapple with it today. While the pandemic has slowed down the consistency of parties and get-togethers, making friends has not been easy. Student organizations have helped get to know people and work with people towards something greater. The biggest help has probably been my roommate, Holly. Holly and I went to high school together but never really connected as we were involved in different activities. When we decided to room together, it was like I found a friend of a lifetime. She is understanding, beautiful and a great listener. She always knows a lot about what I feel when I start to feel burnt out, and we help each other come back to a good place: a place of balance. That was what I needed all along. Balance. It’s okay to work and do a good job and be the best in school, but you also need time to breathe, spend time with people you love and have fun in your own way. So what if you hate parties? There are so many other opportunities for friendship and community. And if you want to go to parties? Heck yeah, have fun at those too. We all need our own ways of finding joy. Happiness is not a destination; it is a feeling. It comes and goes like hunger or anger. It’s okay to feel those lows and highs as long as you have good people around you and goals to share with them. Your “happy” will come, and it’s only a matter of time.