Yesterday I took a long detour across campus to stop by the campus bookstore to purchase my cap and gown.
I had received an email saying that this was THE week to do so, and so I hurried on in.
After waiting in a long line, I got up to the less-than-helpful student employee and told her my height.
“We are out of the 5’5″ gown,” she said sheepishly.
I asked, and asked, and asked. Could I wear a different one? Could she reserve me one? Could I come back another time?
“We’re actually out of the 5’4″ through the 5’9″….”
She took my phone number, and told me that I would receive a phone call when the gowns came in.
May I remind you that it was THEY who emailed ME to come in THIS WEEK? That I came in on the first available day of the aforementioned window, in the MORNING, because they had TOLD ME TO?
I was (am) furious. Once again, this school will NOT let me leave!
If I have to graduate in my pajamas, so be it. I am getting out of here as fast as my legs will carry me.
College has not exactly been a walk in the park for me.
In fact, these have been pretty much the toughest years of my life.
I have had some glorious moments, to be sure… but I still hope that one day (when I’m forty) I can look back on these years and think, “That was the hardest time. I’m so glad everything got better after that.”
Graduation has been a looming landmark on the horizon ever since I arrived at this university.
I have written, rewritten, and re-re-written my “four-year plan,” which then became a “four and a half year plan” and eventually, finally, a “five year plan.”
I have balanced the necessities of my degree with courses I hoped would keep me sane along the way, adjusting every single semester, hoping that it will go better than the last.
Here, now, today… I am finally nearing the end.
All of a sudden, my classes that seemed never-ending are chugging along toward the rather-nondescript last stop on the line.
There’s no exit exam, no cheering fans, no massive paper, no internship. I was doing class, I am doing class, and pretty soon I won’t be doing class anymore.
Suddenly I find myself for the first time not registering for classes for the next semester.
I am the one standing unsuccessfully in the cap and gown line.
I was drudging along, making it through, hanging in there, soldiering on, with no end in sight– until suddenly, without fanfare, here it is. I can practically see the diploma in my hands as I type this. We are that close.
This long and arduous journey is coming to a very simple end.
My entire life is about to change, and everything seems very quiet about it.
I’ll attend my last class meeting, as always, and instead of moving home I will walk across a stage in a basketball stadium and call myself a graduate.
I am starting to field questions often now about how I feel about graduating soon.
“Aren’t you excited for graduation??” “What are you wanting to do next?” “Can you believe it’s actually happening?”
Honestly, today I feel a bit empty about it all.
These years did not pass easily. This road has been a rough one.
Beyond that, I am starting to be in a state of general panic about what is coming for me after May 13th.
I do not yet have a job, though I have applied to countless positions.
I am planning to ship myself off to Oregon on a whim, money or not, job or no, and completely start over.
No, I am not excited.
I am terrified.
This threshold of my life is causing me major anxiety.
I’m sure I’m not alone in this.
Looking back is saddening, and looking forward is frightening.
All I can do is be right here, on a conveyor belt of readings, midterms, and papers that is dragging me along steadily (quickly) to our final days together.
While I don’t want to stay a moment longer in this place, I am scared to leave the only things that have grown to be familiar to me.
I’ll be leaving the roads that I’ve grown to hate, the weather I’ve learned to be wary of, the strangers I’ve gotten to dread meeting, the classes I’ve unhappily endured… and I’m sad about it.
It’s hard to change. It’s hard to leave. It’s hard to pick up and start over.
I’m having nostalgia over things I couldn’t wait to be rid of two months ago, and I’m looking fondly down the paths I have dragged my heels over a thousand times.
All of a sudden, I think I might miss this.
Why in the world do I miss this?
Graduation is coming, and I am dreading it.
This feeling reminds me of waking up the morning I was to depart on a plane for Ghana with the worst stomach pain of my entire life. I couldn’t even get out of bed. I thought I had appendicitis. Turns out, I just had anxiety.
I was anxious about traveling across the ocean all by myself.
I was scared to live in a foreign place without any of my usual resources, and with little to no knowledge of what awaited me there.
I was petrified with fear.
That trip changed my life, and definitely for the better! I am so incredibly lucky to have gone, and I relive the memories often. I loved being there, as I knew I would.
Then, like now, my body and my mind are not willing to see reason.
The light is finally at the end of the tunnel, and I’m scared to greet it.
The time is now. The moment is here.
Deep within me, the instinct to run away from it is screaming.
I know that I will successfully graduate, find a job, move somewhere, start a new life, and get used to everything.
I know that it will all work out, and I trust in my ability to fix anything that doesn’t.
I wish I could be like other students who eagerly count down the days, posting their cap and gown pictures, excitedly looking forward to the unknown.
My knowledge and my longing have no sway against the crippling anxiety that comes, but in the end it’s not really anything for anyone else to worry about.
I will be fine.
I will get there.
I wanted to document this moment here because I KNOW I am not alone in feeling these things.
I know that others are feeling the conflicted paradox of emotions leading up to the largest change in our young adult lives.
Know that I’m going through it with you, step by step, class by class.
We will finish together, and we will be able to look back over our shoulders and realize that we were glad we did.
“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.” –C.S. Lewis