It’s okay to be scared: A reflection on packing my bags and leaving Austin

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Alyssa Cerda (12) photographed at Southwestern's Admitted Students Day. Photo by Lori Cerda

In less than a month, I will be graduated from high school. In less than three months, I will be moving away from my mom’s house into a room with someone I have yet to meet. This is not unique to my situation – thousands of people do this every year. Graduation is quickly approaching for me, and although it’s a completely normal rite of passage, I am the most scared I have ever been.

Scared is not a bad feeling. I think in past years I’ve only ever described my negative fears with me being scared, but the thing right now that I am most excited for is also what I’m most fearful of. I am the first person in my entire family to finish high school and the first to be admitted to and attend a university. I hate surprises, and I hate change. I have no idea what will happen this fall when my life will be completely different, but I am so excited.

In this year I have cried. A lot. Over acceptances, rejections, rewards, money, and the idea of taking out a loan under my name. I have stressed and cheered and completely changed my plan for the next four years. I thought I knew my plan since I was fourteen years old, and that stayed consistent up until around two months ago.

Attending Southwestern University in the fall and majoring in psychology with a criminal focus was not something I thought I would choose all on my own, but I got “that feeling.” The feeling I didn’t think was real, the one Ms. Dicuffa goes on and on about in STARS class every year. I was sitting among other admitted students listening to these professors talk about their first-year seminar focuses and while all I could see were disinterested faces, and all I could hear were whispers of complaints I had only one thing in my head: I need to do this.

After that, I ran to a staff member and said I was ready to deposit and did within that same minute. They rang a bell, a tradition for students who deposit on campus, and announced it at lunch. It was completely different from any attention I had received before, and it was a surprise. My heart was beating incredibly too fast but, if I could feel all of this without crying or shying away, I knew it was actually a feeling I could get used to.

My family saw all of this for the first time, with each of my new experiences they underwent their own too. Every fear I expressed was a lingering thought in their head, every class that I was interested in was a class they researched, and the amount of newfound independence I would have was the number one thing on all of our minds (even if it was for different reasons).

I spent the last three years doubting my academic abilities, worrying that I wasn’t doing enough, that I didn’t stand out. Those fears are natural, but after applying, you know every single achievement, essay, grade, and extracurricular that got you in off the top of your head, and suddenly you realize you’re not that bad, after all. Despite the new found confidence, I still was unaware of what was to come, letting a bit of fear continue to linger.

Graduation is something you’ll dread, fear, desire, and every other contradicting emotion you can think of because it’s change. It’s change that you need, it’s change that will shape you, and it’s change that will scare you, as it should.