This past weekend I graduated from college. I felt instant relief as I walked across that stage, but I also felt like a huge chunk of my life was ending. Now I have no more homework, but I’m unemployed looking for a full-time job. I expected to feel a lot of things after being handed that diploma, but I didn’t expect all of this:
1. The excited stage:
This is how you feel after you’ve finished all your finals and your capstone project is over. You’re free. You can celebrate with friends and family. You’ll never have to read the communist manifesto again. You’ve been liberated. Nothing can stop you now!
2. The day before graduation stage:
Your family has arrived in town. They keep saying how proud they are of you and how excited they are for you. But you don’t understand why. You’re just so relieved to be done. Your friends want to take you out the night before the ceremony for one last celebration. You promise yourself you won’t drink too much. You’ve got to look presentable the next morning after all! You all give a toast to being done.
3. The morning of the ceremony stage:
That dress you bought for graduation three months ago was honestly the best decision you’ve ever made. You look good. And you’re not even that hungover. Go you! Time to head on over to the gym where the ceremony is being held. There’s no need to be nervous. You’ve got this!
4. The pre-ceremony rituals stage:
For goodness sakes, why did you have to get here this early? It’s just one last thing the university has to hold over you. Does your cap look OK? This is not one size fits all. People want you to take pictures. Be cool about it. You’ll probably never see most of these people again. WAIT. I may never see these people again! That’s weird. I don’t know if I like that.
5. The you’re heading into the gym, look alive stage:
You’ve never seen that gym filled like that. You’ve also never seen half the people you’re graduating with before. Oh look, you’re sitting by someone you don’t know. This should be fun.
6. The this ceremony is way too long stage:
Why on Earth do we all have to walk across the stage? Can’t I just walk and then leave? No one else’s parents need to see them today. This day is all about me!
7. The you’ve finally gotten to your turn stage:
This will be the first time I’ve ever had any interaction with the president of the university. Holy crap. This is the last time you’ll interact with him, too. You’re done. Suddenly it hits you. It’s over. You’re done with school. This is the end. You look up at the massive crowd of people and wonder if they know your secret: that you have no idea what you’re doing with your life.
8. The closing remarks are making you cry stage:
You’re back down on the ground, but you don’t feel any better. You move your tassel to the other side and cheer with the people around you as the president tells the group you’re officially graduates. Why are you crying? Why do you feel the sudden need to vomit? You were fine when the ceremony began, but now you’re exhausted.
9. The one last picture stage:
After the ceremony you’re still feeling weird, but virtually every person you know is wanting to take a picture with you. When did you get so popular? That overwhelming feeling hits you again: you may never see some of these people again. OK. Take one last picture with them.
10. The day after stage:
It’s over now and you don’t know what to do. The day you’ve been dreaming about for four years has come and past. And now you have to face the real world. Whatever that means. Can you just curl up in a ball and sleep for a month first? It’s weird having all this free time now. You’ve got to search for a job, but that can’t take up every hour of every day. Maybe you’ll finally be able to watch that Netflix show. Maybe you’ll have time for an actual hobby. Maybe you’ll take a trip. You’ll realize that the possibilities are endless. And that’s scary than walking across any stage.