How did this happen? How did I become this twenty-one year old college graduate? Here I am, this pseudo-adult entering the real world equipped with nothing but a piece of paper and a mountain of debt. It seems so preposterous that this can be the scenario – that I am by social standards ready to be pushed from the nest and willed to fly. But perhaps, it’s not so preposterous that I’m here but rather, how I got here; this is what confounds my mind.
And I know. It’s horribly cliché to reflect on your “college years.” There’s been far too many Facebook status’, dramatic speeches, absurd photos, and Tweets from outside parties that have made this whole reminiscing process wildly redundant, annoying, and utterly nauseating. Yet, despite all of that, I still sit here with my head in my hands – trying to shake these sober spins – thinking of what these past four years really meant.
The seventeen-year old me would have never recognized this girl, (woman? Am I supposed to call myself that now?), that looks back at me through the mirror as I brush my teeth in the morning. And I know that that’s a great thing – change. But no one really prepares your seventeen year-old self for the changes you’ll undergo in college. And I think I love that there are no preparations because it forced me to jump into the lion’s den with no armor. Where high school is awkward, pubescent, and wildly dramatic in all the most humiliating ways, college is raw, emotional, and absolutely incredible in all the most I-want-to-be-young-forever ways.
In essence, graduating high school simply meant leaving your friends for new ones, maybe moving out of Mom & Dad’s, and actually living those ridiculous party scenes you previously only saw in trashy movies about college and/or spring break. Graduating college is a whole different ball game. Suddenly, responsibilities are no longer just doing your chores, obeying curfew, and eating your vegetables; suddenly, there’s credit card debt and bar tabs and job applications and apartment hunting and leaving your friends (again) and suits to buy and loans to repay and questions to answer and it all just seems so damn big.
Older and wiser people have already informed me (numerous times) that the world is my shellfish and that I’m so young and everything is at my feet. And to those elders, I thank you. Your advice is superfluous and annoying but I appreciate and understand your imparted wisdom; however, your commentary does absolutely nothing to quash my absolute terror about becoming an adult. Nor does your sentiment rid my throat of the ball of anxiety that’s been living in it since I realized a Monday-Friday, nine-to-five is going to be my life until long after all of my hair turns grey.
The future is bone-rattling scary to me and I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that my college experience is completely responsible for that feeling. In four years, I’ve seen more than I could have ever anticipated. There’s been a divorce, a lost career, the death of friendships, the birth of new friendships, new jobs, boyfriends, stress, laughter, and, most of all, life. In high school, you’re in this weird sheltered-yet-perfectly-scheduled bubble. There’s class and band practice and sports games and mock trial practice and getting ice cream on a school night after an orchestra concert. Worries are never anything more serious than whether or not that guy in your fifth period English class is into you or if anyone saw you trip up the second flight of stairs after third period. In college, you suddenly become more observant and aware and a true participant in this world; it’s humanizing in a way that doesn’t seem significant until you realize what’s happening. You go through the motions of part-time jobs, internships, relationships, and hardships; you begin as a naïve freshman and you emerge as a seasoned senior. It isn’t until your final year that you become hyper aware of all that you’ve been through and what it was that you actually accomplished. And you realize this as you formulate your resume, perfecting it so future employers can potentially faun over it and welcome you to their respective land of large paychecks and happy hours. Graduation, to the collegiate eye, becomes a much more poignant and liberating experience. And here I am, this graduated and (somewhat) developed person with my own grown-up thoughts and opinions. How did I get here?
And really, there’s no real singular answer to that question because there’s countless ways of getting down to the point of it all. The point being that, after fifteen-plus years of education, I am being released into the wild and that is something that is both exhilarating and daunting and silly all at the same time. I haven’t the slightest idea what the next year is going to hold – or even these next few months – but I do know that I have the greatest people who have been here every step of the way to this point to help see me through it. So, before I swallow my trite statements and gag-worthy comments, I want to say that I wish all those graduates of the class of 2013 the absolute best in these upcoming years and above all else, I want you to know that you are not alone.