Saturday, May 11, 2013

On Graduating

http://www.math.cmu.edu
Whether it's completely set in yet or not, I have had the last day of class for my undergraduate academic career. I've started working on finals, I have one paper to finish, and by Wednesday, I'll be done with everything except the graduation ceremony itself.

It's all a little weird. And by a little weird I mean incredibly freaking bizarre.

I've never been one to romanticize college. This might be surprising, I imagine, but I never actually wanted to go to college. I never planned on it as a kid, never thought about about it, never really knew what it was until I started high school and suddenly that became the primary focus of everything. I went to college mainly because it was expected of me, I had to go in order to study music (what I initially went to university for), and... well, everyone else was doing it. I never wanted to go to Harvard and didn't contemplate going overseas and I wasn't too sure I wanted to think of college as similar to Hogwarts because, in the words of Darcy from Thor, "I am not dying for six college credits" (no offense, Harry Potter, but going to school with you seems like a fairly major hazard).

That being said, college has been way more amazing than I expected it to be. Okay, honestly, I had no expectations. I'd read The Overachievers and Pledged by Alexandra Robbins, both of which are books that give an interesting view of college and college-bound students. I had my dad's awesome stories but he'd gone to a liberal arts college for men in Northern Indiana that sounded myth-like and part of a system of education far unlike the one I'd be entering into. I only applied to one school and when I got it, that was it. The University of Minnesota was my top choice, partly because I was lazy and partly because it seemed the perfect fit. I seriously had my doubts my freshman year but I ended up being right. It was the perfect fit. As much as I complain about the research-centered psychology program and dislike how athletic events overshadow others things on campus and feel a bit dissociated from the University of Minnesota because it's so gigantic, I honestly love this stupid school (I've begun to use "stupid" as a term of an endearment for everything here lately. Curse you, Tumblr).

Maybe I feel this way because I'm finally feel free, not seemingly trapped here with a bunch of requirements to fulfill. I've reached the end and now I can appreciate what I've had. There's no stress, no worry (minus the bit where I wonderfully remind myself that I will be utterly unemployed by the end of August) and so, I can appreciate the weird beauty of campus and feel strangely joyous of my endearing dislike for the frat houses, the business school, the terrible communication from the higher levels of the university, and the variety of other things on campus that I've expressed contempt for over the last four years.

Eddy Hall, circa 1933. Just in case the U is ever accused of not being classy.
This weird, unexpected nostalgia at first worried me. Especially as I keep having high school flashbacks and similar feelings to my graduation from Lakeville South High School four years ago, and that whole experience was strange, to say the least. However, I'm in a much different place - a much better state of mind, for sure - and things feel far different. I'm not facing graduation with any trepidation. I'm elated, excited, proud. A bit nostalgic, yes, but hey - this has been my home for four years. I'm allowed to feel that way. It's going to feel weird not going back to campus for class next fall, to plan out my schedule and buy textbooks and fret about whether or not I'm going to have a good instructor or not. Leaving is a bit... well, weird. As John Green says in Paper Towns, "It is so hard to leave - until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world" (page 229). This isn't the first time I've graduated and I know departing from will be easy. Staying away... well, not so much. Grad school is looking pretty darn likely in the future (though for what, exactly, I'm still not quite sure. My friend Kevin has made a compelling argument for me to go to grad school at the University of Reading (in England) where he's thinking about going for doctoral school. And they have a really interesting television/theater/film research department. And I'd be hanging out in England with my brother from another mother (wait, does that sound weird? Yes...yes it does) (this is not the only weird thing I've been caught doing. Maybe the nostalgia is getting to me...)).

Maybe I'm just tapping in on my inner Sherlock Holmes.
Unlike when I graduated from high school, I have absolutely no idea what I was doing next. For some reason, I am far more relaxed about this than I was about college. Maybe I'm being a bit too cavalier about it all, but the fact that I could do anything is strangely comforting. Frightening, yes, but also freeing. There are a billion possibilities out there. I only have to choose where to start. Which of course is the hard part.

http://media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mdk6l9Dzlo1r6hxat.gif
Maybe an existential crisis will set in later on and maybe I'll suddenly find myself thinking I've missed out on my golden days of college or made some terrible mistake. But I'm feeling pretty good generally, glad about the choices I've made and what I've done in my time at the U. And now it's time to find the Great Perhaps somewhere else (too many John Green references in this post. Jeez. That's what I get for reading Looking For Alaska in one day). I feel like Bilbo Baggins running off without his handkerchief yelling, "I'm going on an adventure!" Because that is exactly how I feel. I've forgotten my handkerchief, I've no idea where I'm going, there's a fairly good chance that I'm going to piss off a dragon in the process. But I'm also in the company of some really fantastic people - and dammit, it's going to be a lot of fun. Or as my father decided to write on this post when I abandoned my computer for a minute: "And a good time was had by all." Exactly. Thanks forgiving me a perfect way to wrap up my post, Dad :D

1 comment:

  1. My apologies to the first twelve people who read this and saw Finding Alaska written instead of Looking for Alaska as the proper title for John Green's book. Despite the fact I just finished that book this morning, sometimes I am an idiot.

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