This coming June, I will be walking at commencement for the University of California at Santa Cruz, and I am very excited, even though I have a couple classes to finish up this summer.
Yes, I'm nervous, too. Like all to-be grads, I think there is a slurry of anxiety and excitement. The whole world awaits you, which is amazing but also overwhelming and daunting. And while I, in many ways, am scared of what's to come, more than anything, I cannot wait to be done.
College is supposed to be the best four years of your life, as the too often heard adage goes, but with such stereotypes abound, a lot of pressure accumulates for students to enjoy every moment of college, savoring it all and hoping to stay in such a bubble forever. There have been a lot of great things about college, but I have not found it to be the most magical four years ever; in fact I'm graduating in only three because I got kind of bored. The illusion had worn off.
Instead of constant bliss, I was faced with the way public universities are drowning in budget cuts and the negative impacts that had on my education. I was faced with living in a city I loved, but also one I found a little isolating, having come from a bigger, urban area. I was faced with a lot of fun like the infinite number of parties and friends college can bring, but found out quickly how unfulfilling life is when this is your focus. I was faced with an amazing education (in many ways), but also learned its shortcomings, such as the unnecessary stress of exams, especially on the quarter system, and how hard it is to pay for even a public schooling.
So, I took on jobs and internships as a way to place a focus on activities that would help me beyond the collegiate bubble and simultaneously started focusing on my classes, taking extra here and there and next thing I know, I am on the cusp of graduating, a year early with two majors. And now, like the past two years, all I can think about is how I can't wait to be "free."
Many people along the way have asked me why I'm hurrying and if I'll miss things here, and to be quite frank, I do not have concrete answers to these questions. All I know is that I love school and academics, but college made me feel stifled and stagnate, like I was an adult, but not really, so I had some autonomy, but not enough. I love learning, but I did not find college to be the bastion of liberal intellectual thought and collaboration I had dreamed of, but that is OK. I did the best I could by making school more challenging for myself and finding different pathways to enjoy my other passions and poise myself for post-graduation employment.
I've enjoyed the journey, but I can't wait for this one to end and the next one to begin. Yes, I freak out if I worry about all the specifics of life after graduation like exactly what sort of job I will have now or end up with or how living back in Los Angeles will pan out, but I'm excited for the general paths that are beginning to emerge. I'm looking forward to working, I cannot wait to move and I'm ready to find out what there is ahead and how it will manifest. I'm in no hurry to figure out now, but I'm excited about the infinite potential.
So, to anyone else who feels this surge of excitement to get the hell out of college, don't let the expectations of others make you feel bad. I've had many amazing experiences, but I know that more of them are ahead of me. It's OK to want what you want, you just have to get out there and make it happen.