Graduation is coming, my friends. I’ve received letters about caps and gowns, packs of handwritten announcements, and special edition tassels just waiting to gather dust in my keepsake box. There is a lot of uncertainty written between the lines of the graduation emails piling up in my inbox – hinting to the void that I and the rest of my class will step into come May.
At my internship, it’s a running joke that I can always claim the “student excuse”. That’s what makes graduating terrifying. In two and half months, there is no more student excuse. No more student discount. No more three month summer break. No more safety net. I’m going to actually have to pay for Amazon Prime? Uh. What? For the first time, in my 21 years of life the course in front of me is not set in stone.
Education has always been part of my plan. I never doubted that I would go to college mostly because of my desire to be the best version of myself, but also because of the blessed financial security of being raised in a middle class family. However, the last time I lived in a world that wasn’t in some way defined by my educational track – I was four years old.
I am lucky that my post-graduation life is already beginning to come together, giving me a glimmer of hope to cling to as I enter the void. But for most of my life, education has been my core life course.
You know those Fidelity Investments commercials where the people follow the green line and miraculously end up at the Fidelity offices? That’s basically what education has been to me. It’s the green line I’ve been following for sixteen years, leading me to something “better”.
There have been exits along the way and for the first time, I am taking one of them. Many of my friends will go to graduate school full-time, and perhaps I will find myself on a part-time graduate path in the future but for now it’s time to become, what an acquaintance told me yesterday, “a real person”.
I chewed on that for a while – a real person. He was joking of course, but there is something inherently true about college students being allowed certain leniencies as adults. You can be 21 years old, living in your parent’s house, not paying rent, not paying bills, no job, eating Bon Bons all day but as long as you are still grudgingly making it as a student, it’s okay with us. Take away those degree aspirations and suddenly, it changes to something else.
The same thing happens post-grad. There are so many expectations or lack thereof based on the roles we take and being a college student is the ultimate leniency of young adulthood. It’s no wonder soon-to-be-grads are terrified to hang up their free-pass college hat and shrug on the big, wool jacket of “real person-ism”.
And despite all of this, I have realized that I am ready to graduate college. I have good job experience, a growing network of contacts, a life, and the ability to take care of myself. At some point, without realizing it, I hung up my college free-pass hat for a “real person in training” windbreaker.
Four years ago, entering the void of post-graduation would have terrified me but now, I know that I will make it work and make it work well. The void is scary. It is change – the tearing up of the old and the building of the new. It’s completely reasonable to be antsy. It would be weird not to feel even a twinge of fear when reaching the end of an old-tried path and taking on a new, possibly mountainous climb.
And my advice to the soon-to-be graduates such as myself is this – let yourself be a little bit afraid. It is times of change – scary, rigid change and not linear progression – that provide us with our big chances, those big moments to change the course of our lives.
For my speech class, my professor told us to take the fear out of speaking and turn it into excitement. And thinking about it, that is true of anything. Be excited for change – for a new adventure. Be energetic and appreciative of your past time and remaining time in college. There are things I will miss post-grad but, there are so many things in front of me, things to see and be and become, and I am going to reach for these new opportunities instead of holding back.
And if all else fails, there is always grad school.