Four years ago I embarked on what has perhaps been the most trying journey of my life. Four years ago I walked onto YSU’s campus incredibly unsure of myself. As I prepare to graduate this Saturday I remain that same uncertain kid – maybe a little bit wiser, but definitely with more facial hair. It really hasn’t hit me yet that I will soon be a college graduate and will no longer be a college student (Although, in the grand philosophical sense I will always be a student of life. But I’m getting ahead of myself here).
With that comes some advantages and disadvantages. For starters… Hell yeah! No more homework or 8 A.M. classes! No more research papers or group PowerPoint projects. No more Blackboard! I will be able to have a clear mind and focus on life – not just a bunch of ‘for completion’ assignments. It will hopefully be a truly liberating experience. But I will also lose my sense of security, that ever-present safety net of being a student. I will have to start looking for a real job, one in which I can put my degree and personal skills to the test. I will have bills, student loan debt, and will officially be in… The Real World.
I’m actually quite a bit nervous. Actually, more like my anxiety is out of control at this point in my life. There is a lot ahead that I simply cannot see just yet. All I have is the ability to reflect on my four years of college. And even though I am typically a very cynical person, I didn’t want to enter the rest of my life on a negative tone. So I will do my best to focus on the good that came out of my college years rather than the bad. But first, a little bit of venting can be very cathartic. Just a little but.
First and foremost, I did not have the typical college experience that you see in the movies. I lived at home the entire time, didn’t make a ton of friends (until Junior and Senior year) and didn’t really get involved on campus until this past year when I joined Lambda Pi Eta. I didn’t go to a single football game. The amount of parties I attended could be counted on one hand. I had a fairly boring & uneventful four years, filled with late-night Nazi Zombie games complimented by countless hours lost in an existential crisis of sorts.
I have spent pretty much my entire time in college mad at the world. Don’t ask me why – I just have been. I’ve been mad that I didn’t get to go away to school like they do in the movies, I’ve been mad that I have thousands of dollars worth of student debt and still have no clue what my first step to a real career should be (let alone how to do real-life things like filing my taxes). But most of all, I have been mad at myself. I’ve been angry with the fact that I spent the last four years being pissed off for no reason, rather than just making the best of a less than desirable situation.
I know that there are a lot of people that have it way worse than me, and I’m mad at myself for complaining so damn much. I’m also upset with myself for spending so much time worrying about small, trivial matters rather than just taking life one day at a time. This, in turn, lead to countless nights lost in an anxious haze of over-thinking and pretty much driving myself crazy by creating problems that only existed inside my own head.
So far, it would seem like I’ve had a pretty rough four years. But now as I am just one week away from the biggest day of my life (so far), I can honestly say that there has actually been a handful of good to come out of my time in college.
In my time at YSU, I have truly learned my strengths and weaknesses, what I am skilled in and what I still need to work on. I know that I can get up in front a class and speak my heart out, and that I can bust out an ‘A’ worthy paper with little worry. But I also tend to procrastinate too much (but who doesn’t?), have a hard time taking criticism, and am an awful test taker. I have learned that collaboration is a necessary component if you truly want to see the world differently. But I have also realized that sometimes it’s just best to work alone. I have further understood that stepping outside of your comfort zone can sometimes deliver you a great unexpected gift. But I have also felt the jolt of disappointment that comes with false hope. I have learned that instead of waiting for the perfect time to be productive and pushing all of my tasks to the last possible minute, that I should just get my ‘to-do’ list done as soon as possible. I have spent the last four years painstakingly searching for some new mindset, philosophy, or way of thinking that would magically make all of my worries disappear, rather than addressing the problem itself in the first place.
Thankfully, I have also had the pleasure of meeting some of the most caring, dedicated educators I’ve ever known. Pretty much the entirety of the Comm. Department (of whom I was primarily involved with) made an active effort to ensure not only mine, but my classmates’ success, as well. From help with Dr. Curnalia and the Goliath that is Senior Project, to last minute scheduling appointments with Dr. Earnheardt, to access to legitimate resume and experience boosting opportunities with Dr. Tyus, the professors and faculty that comprise the CCAC want to see you succeed. Even when it feels like all of college is against you, they are a constant force propelling you towards the end of the line. For that, I am thankful.
Finally, if nothing else, I have learned a pretty big lesson that hasn’t really been visible until this, my graduation week. College has prepared me to learn and grow throughout the rest of my life. Maybe college wasn’t supposed to give me ‘everything’ right now. Maybe college is supposed to set you up for the rest of your life, rather than hand you the rest of your life alongside that overpriced piece of paper, cap & gown. No more, no less.
I have learned a lot about myself over the last four years, but I still have a lifetime to discover the rest. The rest of me, the rest of life, and everything this world has to offer. Did I get everything I wanted from my time in college? Hell no. Will I look back on my undergrad years with excitement, reverence, and the utmost pride? Probably not.
But did I get exactly what I needed as I step into the next chapter of my life? I’m starting to think so.
Originally published 5/1/17