If this is such a great age to be, why am I so conflicted?

"You guys are the age that everyone wants to be," my professor said. "Just think about it. Kids want to be older and old people want to be younger. Right now, you are the age everyone wants to be."

This handful of words, uttered so casually, grabbed me. And held me.

My "Advertising and Society" class usually consists of an hour and 20 minutes of words strung together to form a quiet backdrop for sleepy daydreaming.

But not today. My first thought was: "Who would want to be this age?"

This time in life is so vague - somewhere between dependence and independence, childhood and adulthood. Just four years, and then suddenly you are transported from one to the other.

It isn't that I haven't enjoyed my college years. I have had some of the best times of my life here. I have made close friends and had experiences that will be etched in the most sacred chamber of my memory.

I'm sure I will look back with nostalgia - once I know how it's all going to turn out.

Part of the value of college lies not just in the education and good times, but also in the difficult times. Everyone has such wonderful and glowing things to say about their college years and early 20s, but no one ever says that it is a combination of the most wonderful and the most terrifying times in life.

Instead of enjoying this age, I spend most of my time worrying about what I will do once I am not this age anymore. There are so many choices to make, choices that will affect the direction of my life, the outcome of possible job opportunities (or lack thereof), relationships, where to live, if/when I will start a family.

Until now, I was just following my predetermined path: high school, college. After graduation, I will be charting new territory. Fortunately, I know that I am not alone; my friends are as confused.

Take Joelle. I met her my freshman year. She is the smart one in my circle of friends - she never skips class, studies for tests more than two days in advance, and cries when she receives less than a B. She is disciplined and very together.

However, in the past few weeks I have sat over numerous caramel macchiatos with Joelle and listened to her recite the very words that circulate in my mind. She feels she is in a rut: stuck, lonely, crazy - all symptoms of the early 20s pregraduation jitters.

Then there is my roommate, Katie, who has fallen in love with a boy named David. They are crazy about each other and she thinks he may be The One. But David moved across the country to New York six months ago. The separation is agonizing for them, and they spend their time numbly awaiting their next visit.

Katie has to make a decision about whether this love is good enough, is big enough, is real enough to put aside her dreams and goals to move to New York to be with him, and he is faced with a similar decision.

This phenomenon affects students outside my immediate friendship circle as well. Recently, in a group meeting for a class project, one member looked unusually tired and weary. When I asked if something was wrong, she launched into a brief and achingly honest speech about how completely lost she is.

She has no idea what will become of her life after graduating in June. She feels less prepared than her classmates, less experienced, more confused. When she reached the end of her sudden outburst, she looked surprised at her own emotional release.

I smiled and told her I knew how she felt. I had never spoken a truer sentence.

And finally, take me. On top of all these feelings and choices, I am finally involved in a relationship with someone I love very much. I went through three years of college without finding a single guy worth more than five minutes of my time, and all that time alone finally paid off. I found him, and he is wonderful. He will also be graduating this spring, and we are quickly approaching "the talk," in which we will have to figure out where our relationship will go come June.

Our options: break up, or start our new lives together - the first of which I know I don't want, the second of which scares me. Like Katie, I have to decide whether the love I have found is good enough to pursue after college. I always pictured myself single, graduating from college and embarking on life in the real world with no commitments forcing me to change my individual course.

But what I am beginning to realize is that life doesn't ever happen as we plan it - we have to allow room for our course to change and evolve.

Jessica Corcoran is a senior at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

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