Written by Abi Humber Tuesday, 28 August 2012 13:04
I’m feeling fairly panicked as I write this because the digital clock on my computer reading 11:59 has just clicked over to midnight. It is now Monday, Aug 27.
It’s officially time to bite my fingernails, grind my teeth, and fight the urge to procrastinate every task, ever. I will soon be hurtling at light speed toward The Great Unknown: Actual Adulthood.
What I’m trying to tell you is that my senior year of college has begun.
I’m probably making this moment a tad more dramatic than it really should be, but the drama adequately conveys the anxiety I feel about entering a completely uncertain stage of life with absolutely no finalized direction and no cheat codes whatsoever.
Justifiably nerve-wracking, right?
People keep trying to calm me down, suggesting I simply “enjoy the ride.” Tell me, O Accomplished and Situated Adult, do you really think I “enjoy” watching the sweet remains of “childhood” disappear like dinosaurs as I approach the land of 5 a.m. wakeup calls, paperwork and pencil skirts?
If we’re practicing using antonyms then, yes, “enjoyment” is exactly the feel I’m feeling when I think that thought. And, to practice the sacred art of sarcasm, you should know that I actually revel in the exhilarating chaos that results from feeling powerless over my future.
Maybe I should learn some new coping skills.
Thankfully for my sanity, not everything ahead of me is the deep, dark void of the unknown. I did manage to secure an internship at 826CHI, the incredible nonprofit tutoring and writing center I was raving about a few months ago.
This internship, which I begin next week, is a small pocket of semi-certainty among all the terrifying talk about “grad school applications” and “job interviews.”
I know that, as a programming intern, I’ll be helping with multiple areas of 826’s free programming for students. I'll work in a smattering of locations with a mix of age groups, covering all sorts of writing-related topics. This variety feels like just the right amount of mystery mixed with plenty of routine. So there shouldn’t be anything to fret about, right?
Well. True to form, I’ve identified two potential concerns within this internship and have managed to successfully freak myself out about both of them.
The first of these has to do with my unknown level of capability to successfully educate students and interact professionally with teachers. So, basically what I’m saying is, I’ve never taught students before. Do I know even know how to teach?
I’ve done all sorts of “working with kids” throughout my life, whether in the church nursery, at a homeless shelter, or while baby-sitting. Give me six hours, a sunny day and an awesome group of high-energy kids and we’ll have the time of our lives.
But give me a whiteboard and a group of strange, curious little humans and tell me to do what? Hold their attention while simultaneously teaching them something of lasting importance?
That’s uncharted territory. And uncharted territory means I don’t know what’s happening, and if I don’t know what’s happening, I don’t have any control over the situation.
826CHI obviously believes that it’s something I can be trained to do or else they wouldn’t have hired me, but I still need some convincing. I’ve always been the friend or the playmate—never, ever, the teacher, and I’m really nervous I’m going to screw up everything.
The other, and perhaps more crucial, concern I have about my future has to do with my hair.
Yes, you read that correctly: I’m worried about my hair.
You see, I’ve planned to commute by bike to my internship every day. This is almost twice as fast as any other form of travel, and 100 percent less stressful than taking public transit.
My biking plan was basically flawless. That is, before I actually envisioned myself vigorously pedaling six miles through rush-hour traffic in business-casual attire. I mentally adjusted my plans, realizing I’d need to bring clothes in a backpack.
Fine. Whatever. That’s totally normal commuting behavior. But what about my hair?
Ever since the dawn of my adolescence, when I first began riding a bike with training wheels, the issue of helmet hair has been of the utmost concern to me.
When I had long hair, the helmet caused my luscious, flowing locks to become flat and kinky and rather drab-looking. Now that I have chronic bedhead hair (a look I have become quite fond of), my sweaty helmet hair significantly amplifies that accidentally-took-my-hair-dryer-into-the-shower style.
Neither look is particularly becoming of an aspiring young professional.
In a (futile) effort to cope with hair-related uncertainty, I’ve overwhelmed myself trying to decide what I’m going to do about my hot mess helmet hair.
Do I budget an additional 30 minutes into my schedule to allow myself to cool off? Do I add a blow dryer to the Barney Bag of supplies I’m already toting around? Do I just deal with it, hoping no one will notice? Do you see how the fear of the unknown is completely ruining my entire life, both physically and psychologically? Why is adulthood so hard?
Coming to the rescue, yet again, is my faithful armada of encouraging friends who help me stop panicking about things that shouldn’t be so monumentally traumatic.
For example, one friend pointed out that I thrive when faced with challenges. Despite how overwhelming a situation may seem originally, if I can focus on accomplishing smaller tasks within that larger goal (lesson planning, wearing headbands, etc.), I can develop momentum that propels me through the times of stress. Thank you, genius friend of mine.
The person who quelled my anxieties concerning the hiccup in my personal beauty regimen was my mother.
Helmet-wearing has always been a nonnegotiable aspect of Humber-ness, due to the fact that one of my mother’s sisters suffered a brain injury in a carbon-monoxide accident. My aunt had no way to prevent her injury, but we have the opportunity to wear a helmet and protect ourselves.
It’s kind of hard to argue with that logic, but, naturally, I gave it a shot. I tried to educate my mother about how “uncool” helmets were, making what I’d consider a pretty convincing case for the anti-helmet-hair campaign.
She really didn’t care that one glance at a helmet morphed me into an obnoxiously whiny ball of a tweenager. She always replied with, “Which do you prefer: Helmet-hair, or Hospital-hair?” Touche, Mama Humber.
After toiling over this column I’ve realized, yet again, that every adult I know has been right: Only time will tell what my future holds. And there are going to be things I don’t have control over, and even though I don't like the way either of those things sound, what can I do about it?
Learning to teach well will likely involve a lot of trial and error. I’m glad many of my friends are education majors, because I’ll likely be picking their brains on a regular basis.
And as for the helmet-hair situation? Well, I have to hope 826CHI feels the same way as my mother.