Since my freshman year of college, I have dreamed about the day I would graduate. My high school graduation was one of the best days of my life, so I figured college graduation would be even better than that. I had all these fantasies about how the day would go, and how I would be surrounded by all my new college friends, and everyone I love would be there, and it would be the perfect day.
Then came a time when I didn't even think I was going to graduate college at all. It seemed as if obstacle after obstacle kept happening and interfering with my life, which caused my classes to suffer from it. I kept pushing back my graduation date and it felt like it would never happen. Even up to the last few days of my final semester, I still didn't know if I would graduate. One wrong grade could have set me back even further, but I did it. I passed my final semester with perfect grades, I got to walk with some of the friends I made while in school, and my whole family came to attend the ceremony. It was a nearly perfect day, except I felt an overwhelming sadness I couldn't place.
Everyone around me kept saying it was the happiest day of my life and I had achieved something great, but I didn't feel that way at all. As I sat in the sea of blue-robed graduates, I couldn't help but feel the panic that comes with big life changes. I barely remember anything at all because my mind was so preoccupied with comparing myself to the expectations that come with being a college graduate. I found myself questioning every choice I had made up until that point in my life. Why didn't I major in something else? Why didn't I take a class with that one professor? Should I have tried for that internship I had decided wasn't right for me? Should I have gone to another school? Why didn't I try harder to find a job right after graduation? Every possible worry I'd had as a college student was running through my mind during what was supposed to be one of the happiest moments of my life.
I completely faked my way through the entire ceremony. I went through all the motions by following along with what my peers were doing. Then the confetti fell and I realized it was all over. I proceeded to panic some more. In the picture below, you can see for yourself the face of a girl who is terrified (and extremely tired because she had to get up at 5 a.m.).
It's been a month since I've graduated now and I feel as lost as ever. All of my friends have just begun school again and I am stuck working at a job I've had for three years that still has me on my old school schedule. It's left me with a lot of free time on my hands. Free time that I've found to be extremely isolating and depressing because I'm alone a lot. My roommates and friends are all busy with their lives just like I used to be. I haven't been able to find a new job and, to be honest, I haven't had the motivation to do much of anything. Some days I barely leave my house because I just don't feel like I have the energy. I have nowhere to go.
I feel as if I'm going through all the stages of grief. I went home for the holidays and felt denial that I wasn't going back to school. It felt like any other winter break. When I got back to Boise, I felt anger over everything I didn't do while I was in school, which proceeded into bargaining over whether I should go to graduate school sooner than planned or not. I'm in the depression stage now. The only thing that has comforted me in this time is knowing that I'm not alone; my friends who also recently graduated have felt the same as me. It's hard to transition into a life without a set schedule like school provided. It's all I've known my whole life and it's difficult figuring out my place in this world outside of being a student. I hope to find my way into the acceptance stage soon because this is not what I thought being a college graduate would feel like.