DEAR KELLY: My sister and I are both seniors. We are twins and have done almost everything together our whole lives when it comes to school, band and friends. We both applied to a bunch of colleges and have good enough grades that I think we’ll get into at least a few.
My question to you is the problem that I have with how to respond to people. See my sister has decided she wants to go to either a UC or two schools that are on the East Coast. Since we’re both waiting to hear, she is kind of in limbo. I decided that I really don’t want to go away. I would rather just stay, go to a community college, live at home for another two years, then transfer somewhere. But when I tell people my plans, parents and kids my age say things like, “Why would you work so hard in high school to just go to a JC?” Or they say, “Is she the smarter twin?” Or, “Won’t it be hard if your sister goes to (insert school) and you just stay home?” I just really don’t feel ready to leave. People have asked if I’ll feel like a failure because she’s at a prestigious school and I’m at a JC. Nope. Or if my parents only saved for her college and not mine. Nope. And people have asked if my parents can only afford money for one of us to go away. Nope again. It’s all my decision, and people can’t believe that. I had teachers at school tell me I was too smart to just go a JC and that I’ll regret my decision once August comes. People say things almost every day and I know the closer it get to graduation, the more people will ask and the more they will give me their opinions.
What’s your advice? What do I say to people? Why do people think it’s their business where I or my sister end up going to school? Who really cares?
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DEAR ONE HALF: I’ve said it many times before in this column: People say stupid things. It’s annoying and it’s unfortunate, but it’s part of life. They think they have good intentions or they are being helpful, but they aren’t. They believe they are imparting life lessons – even though you didn’t ask for their thoughts on your life. In reality, their wisdom is not your truth. If people want to impart “words of wisdom,” you have the choice to tune them out, quickly forget everything they say or put invisible ear muffs on the moment they begin to talk about your life. Learning that people say stupid things (all the time, may I add) is a part of maturity, and letting go or ignoring the insensitive things they say is a step in the right direction.
Deciding what to do after high school is a personal thing. It’s your journey. It’s your life. If your sister wants to head back East for college, good for her. If you feel like you want to stay home and go to a community college, good for you.
Attending community college is a great step to take after high school. Given the cost of attending a four-year university, community colleges offer significant cost savings, help you get the general education classes out of the way and can help you ease in to college life. If going to a community college feels right, that’s OK. Only you know how ready you are to launch after high school. If people want to attach a stigma to attending a community college, that’s their issue.
When people comment on your decision to stay home, be confident in your reply. Hold your head up, speak with conviction and say, “I’m happy with my decision and it is what is best for me.” If they say something else, keep using your big-girl voice and respond with, “You don’t need to support or agree with my decision, but I hope you can respect it enough to not judge me.”
People may continue and say, “It’s just my experience or opinion …” and you can reply, “I respect your opinion so I hope you can respect my decision.” Your goal is to respond, not react.
Be sure to practice the idea of letting go. Let go of insensitive comments. Let go of other people’s thoughts on your life. Let go of trying to please people. Let go of following what society says you should do. Let go of thinking you are wrong for following a different journey. Let go of letting others compare you to your sister. Let go of letting others write your future. Embrace who you are and be good with the person in the mirror.
At the end of the day, the decision should be between you and your parents. That’s all. No one else should weigh in on what is best for you. Don’t let others knock you down for listening to what you feel is best. You are no less than you sister simply because she goes to a different college than you. Be prepared for stupid questions and have logical answers that are confident and assured. If others can’t accept it or struggle with your choices, let them figure it out. You know the direction you are headed and your success is without limits. Blaze your own path and follow what is in your heart. You won’t go wrong.