Jessica Yin contemplates the anxieties of third year — and the deceit of self assurance. 

I’m experiencing a premature quarter-life crisis. I had a clear idea of how I wanted my adult life to look like: attend an Ivy League school, then go to an Ivy League law school and eventually become a brilliant human rights lawyer. Spoiler alert, things have not gone according to plan.

I’m going into my third year and I am a far cry from the self assured adolescent I once was –and it isn’t for lack of trying. I’ve had a few internships; each time, I held onto the hope that I was about to discover my life’s calling. Yet at the end of each one, I found myself just as confused as before.

I feel like I’m running out of time. Twenty years old? Sounds so old to me. Twenty sounds like 9-5 workdays and mortgages. Twenty sounds like houses and marriage and settling down. But twenty year old me remains determinedly single and full of wanderlust, aching for adventure and the chance to experience something extraordinary. I’m still trying to shape my identity, putting on different characters to see what feels right. Even now, I feel like I’m playing dress up; transforming into a firefighter one day, a ballerina the next, never committing to one role.

When I was a first year, my academic parents seemed like they had it all figured out. They knew the university in and out, had a clear idea about their future, and were standing on solid ground. I wonder if, on the inside, they were secretly freaking out like I am now. I wonder if they only seemed wise because relative to me, they were. Now as the tables turn and I get ready to adopt, I wonder if my kids will think I’m wise or knowledgeable. When they ask me for advice, I hope to sound smart enough in my response, worldly even. But here’s the secret, kids: none of us know what we’re doing, not 100%. We all have questions and doubts, paths still unexplored, lessons not quite learned. And that’s okay. My real, not academic, dad once said: “if we had it all figured out now, what would we spend the rest of our lives doing?”

So I’m going to enjoy the journey and spend the energy I could waste on worrying, on making memories instead. I may be nervous for honours, but I’m also excited for the challenges and  interesting opportunities it will bring. It will be great to start specializing and to finally get out of crowded introductory classes. I’m determined to carve out time to travel, embark on day trips, weekend trips because damn it- I simply refuse to go home after four years in Scotland without truly venturing out of the bubble. I will work hard and play harder, all while allowing myself to enjoy the process. I’m 20 years old and I don’t know what the next day, month, year, or five years will bring. Don’t worry if you’re not sure what comes next yet. You’ll figure it out through stumbling one day after another. Figuring it out is part of the fun –no matter what happens, you are going to be okay.


Jessica Yin