Last week I started my first last day of my undergraduate career. Though I plan to go on to grad school and continue my education in history, it was strange to walk out of my loft with a heavy backpack and full schedule, knowing this was my last year at Mary Baldwin. I was hit with a wave of nostalgia at what life was like as a freshman and how I had changed so much in only three years. As cliché as it seems, I missed those innocent first years before the worries of theses, applying to jobs and graduate schools, and life in general began to tinge my semesters with a subtle shade of melancholy. This last year will be my hardest for sure. Having to say goodbye to my school, Outrageous Fortune, and my closest friend will be incredibly challenging.
Unfortunately, all these things are overshadowed by the fact that my family is an expensive fourteen hour plane flight away. I have two younger siblings whose important milestone’s I’ve already missed. My parents and I are close and I miss their advice and good humor. This year I will only be able to visit for Christmas, and that will be the last time I will see them before they move back to the U.S., whenever that will be. Worst of all? They won’t be able to attend my graduation.
In retrospect I’m very lucky. I’m blessed to live in an era of Skype and texting, picture messaging and Facebook. I also have the best friend in the world, whose family has already invited me for Thanksgiving and breaks. While all these are enough to distract me from the fact that I am so far away from the people I love, it’s still a painful reminder that I’m growing up. I’ve been forced from the nest without knowing whether or not my wings are ready.
In thinking about my current circumstance I realized that while the distance may be greater for me, other seniors are facing the same dilemma of leaving home. Time is counting down to graduation and to the dark abyss of real adulthood, where soon we will be apartment, job, or grad school hunting. And what a hunt it will be! Thinking about it is daunting. Sure, I’m 21 and can go to bars or rent a car, feigning experience and nonchalance, hoping no one notices me sweating, but reality is a bitch, and she’s coming for us.
So what can we do? Well, I actually have no idea. I’m not even sure if this post really has a point, but I can tell you what I do to keep my head above water. First, I don’t ignore the problem. I’m terrified of job applications and I’m still not sure what I want to write for my first thesis, but instead of sweeping these fears under the rug I face them. I pop open a beer and write down everything that needs to be accomplished. It’s a long list, and sometimes my anxiety gets the better of me, but having it on paper tends to release some sort of pressure on my brain. At the end of the list I know exactly what I need to do.
Secondly, I’ve learned to remove work from play. I do my homework in my cubby in the library and go back to my loft when I have a break to watch a movie or hang out with my roommate. Keeping those two separate allows me to decompress and have an area to do so without books on American Literature and London cemeteries leering at me. It really helps. I no longer dread going back to my place fearing homework. Instead, my loft has become a haven of bad puns and off key singing.
Finally, I have fun. Or rather, force myself to have fun. My roommate and I decided to order pizza last night. We sat down with a large pepperoni, mozzarella bites, and a full liter of Mr. Pibb and sat on the floor to watch the entirety of Sweeney Todd. Some nights we go for a car ride, while some are just spent in the same bed watching Vines until we’re crying with laughter. Even if you take a fifteen minute walk around your campus, learn to enjoy the moments not spent in a book or lecture. For some of us it may be hard, but I guarantee if you manage to get a good laugh or breath of fresh air in every day you’ll feel a little more in control of your life.
If none of this advice helps you, I apologize. If it does, I’m glad I could help. This year is going to be crazy and come spring we’ll wonder where the time went. Though we will stare forward with uncertainty, unable to predict our futures, just remember that we’re doing it together. Take a deep breath. We’ll be okay. Here’s to us, class of 2016!