In just about six weeks, I will be receiving my college degree. This is something I've worked so hard for four years and is easily the most expensive thing I've ever invested in. I'm excited, to say the least, but that excitement is also contradicted with fear.
Yes, I know where I'll be working once I graduate in May and yes, I have a pretty good grasp on my post-college living situation, too. I'm actually more prepared for the ~real world~ and this college-to-work transition than I ever expected I would be. I think I'm ready. However, as I sit in my dorm's laundry room on a Saturday evening, I'm stuck feeling so many negative emotions towards leaving the university I've called home.
First off, school is all I've known since I was five years old. I've gotten used to having homework, to the Monday through Friday classroom struggle. Although college was a little more flexible than my first thirteen years of education were, I was still learning. I was still a student. Now I'm six-ish weeks away from packing this all up forever. To putting the books away and never taking them back out...unless grad school is something I visit in the future. Even though I'm not the best, brightest student in the bunch this still really scares me! Being a student has always been something I've enjoyed and has been such a crucial part of my identity. How am I going to spend my Sunday nights when I don't have last minute homework to finish?
I'm also so sad to leave my friends. The most bittersweet part about college is meeting all of these amazing people, from all over the world, and having to pack up and say goodbye to them for good once graduation comes. For me, I didn't make my very best college friends until my senior year. That really sucks! I've only known these people for about a year and they're already some of the most genuine, honest friendships I've had in my entire life. I wish I didn't have to leave them in six weeks. And while I know visiting on the weekends is a possibility, our friendship will greatly change when they're not just a five-minute walk across the street and an every Saturday Taco Bell date. I'm going to miss them so much.
I'm also a first-generation college student. No one else in my family has made it this far. They don't really understand the job search process or how it feels to graduate with loan debt in addition to having to pay rent for the first time. That is some scary stuff, especially when you don't have the foundation of your parent's success to model for you. I'm my own model, and I have to figure this all out on my own. That adds an added layer of stress many of my peers are lucky enough not to have to deal with.
I sit in my 400-level senior classes surrounded by my peers amazed at the amount of comfort I have compared to some of them. I received my offer in mid-February, so I've been sitting peacefully in the job search for a while now. Not all of my classmates can say they're this lucky. Many of them have struggled quite a bit to put themselves on the professional map, and some of them still have no idea where they'll be headed after we toss up our caps in early May. I'm more fortunate than some, but that shouldn't discredit my anxiety. I have so many reasons to be scared, and so many reasons to feel like these last few weeks are the complete worst.
They say the end of your college experience should be a celebration. You're encouraged to take a light credit load and chill out from all the hard work once you find your first job placement. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case for me. Yes, I know where I'm headed after I graduate. But I don't have time to chill. Instead, I have to keep my mental health afloat enough to actually get out of here. I have to start to say goodbye to my best friends. I have to figure out apartment stuff and moving away for good from home. I have to start my journey. Unfortunately, that leaves little time for bar crawls and parties and extra forms of treating myself. It makes these last few weeks even harder than I ever imagined.