Graduation Blues

Graduation is bittersweet. But it’s for the best.

For college students, May is always a bittersweet time.

Finals and Graduation are the roughest time of the year and they happen right after each other.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 19.9 million students attend college in Fall 2018 and 1.9 million bachelor’s degrees would be awarded in the U.S. That’s a lot of student debt.

“First you have to take a test for a quarter of your grade for each class you took this semester and then you get to leave college forever.”

Finishing finals was like making it to the end of the tunnel. You put yourself through a high stress situation where you had a serious chance of death, or worse failure. There was always that one project that you had underestimated (or several) and at least one moment where you had to weigh studying for one class versus another.

“I need a A- in this class to get at least a C in Stats, but the Eastern European Paper is 50% of my grade. Guess I’ll write the first and last quarter of the paper and the middle will just sort of average out.”

There is nothing more satisfying than finishing your finals and spending the next week at home just sleeping and being as lazy as physically possible. Every time after finals I’d always return home tired and sick, pushing myself insanely hard.

However, there was also this aspect that I was one year closer to getting my degree accompanied with the fact that I was one less year of college to have fun. After all the point of getting a college education was to improve yourself and better your chances of finding a worthwhile job. Yet at the same time, college is probably the time in your life where you have the most freedom.

True you will be swamped with homework and prepping for test, but unlike high school you didn’t need to be in class for 7 straight hours. Plus you were at least 18 and according to you ID you were 22. Couple that with the fact that everyone else had an excessive of amount of free time would lead to some awesome experiences. Once you go full time there’s no more of that.

And on top of using up another year of freedom, your senior friends would be gone. Moving on to pursue careers, setting down their kegs and funnels for the last time. As an underclassmen its hard to imagine what that feeling is like. No more stresses about finals and homework, only stresses about finances and being an adult. Every senior I met handled it differently, some trying to fill every second they had left by being as not sober as possible while other sat back and looked back with quiet pride.

I’m not sure exactly how any of my friends truly felt upon graduation, but for me it was a sad transition, but a necessary one. My college days were done and what I had done during them were set. I was left only with my vague memories, my degree, and my regrets. I know there was plenty of stuff I wish I did in college that I was too short-sighted to do. I ignored people that would have made good friends and I avoided a lot of events and parties because I wanted that one extra tenth of a GPA point.

Would I completely change everything that I did in college?

No. I’m glad to have met the people I met and experiences I did have.

But I do wish I truly understood how special that time in my life was and the sheer volume of opportunity presented to you. It was all there for the taking, but you had to be aware of it and make an effort to try for it. At some level, I think every college grad experiences this feeling. It’s impossible to make the right decision every time and do everything that someone knew they would like.

If you’re sad that your college days are over, understand that ending them allow you to look back and appreciate the experiences that you had. It’s difficult to see what benefits those days truly were if you’re still in college. Once you’re out it becomes apparent quite quickly and all you’re left with your experiences and your growth.

Processing the change can be as easy as a day or as long as a decade. Everyone reflects at their own speed.

So seniors feel sad for finishing your college days. It means that what you had really was special. Just don’t get too sad.

The Thing Everyone Misses Most From College

The thing people miss most from college isn’t the parties. It’s something even more precious.

One of the most jarring things about post-grad life is the jarring shift in lifestyle. Now not everyone may have had this, but most people had such a massive increase in independence moving from high school to college. It’s jarring, Now you can go to sleep whenever you want or not at all. You can skip a day or three of classes and no one will stop you (although you are paying thousands of dollars to just skip class). A bag of Sour Patch Kids can be your means of sustenance for an entire weekend and cleaning your bathroom becomes optional.

Lots of kids thrive under all this increase in free-time; the kids who are seemingly doing it all from joining new clubs, getting good grades, and still managing to party every night somehow. Others are obliterated by it. Skipping classes leads to knowing even less about the class, worse grades, and the next thing you know a test is coming up, but it was only announced in the class they skipped. Getting high takes such a priority over everything from cleaning, cooking, and exercise that it’s all you’re really known for. Everyone reacts to this new independence differently, but its an independence that’ll only increase after graduation.

For those who could afford the luxury, the large amounts of free time were the best aspect of college. It goes hand in hand with the increased independence, but this free time disappears after college with full employment. Joining clubs, partying, getting high–they all required that you not only had the independence to do them, but the free time as well. And most college kids have that in spades. You can point to some kids who had to work while at college and it’s a shame that they had to deal with the extra stresses of college without as many of the benefits. Free time was a luxury that not even all college students got. Yet for those who did, it’s a feeling unlike any other. You only had to put in as much work into classes as you felt like and just get up and leave class itself if you felt like it. And then there were all the vacations on top of that.

In college and earlier school, all the vacations were ridiculous. You’d get multiple months off in the summer for finishing a grade level. No other reason. Spring vacation, winter vacation, holiday break; my parents would always be surprised (and annoyed) at all the time I had off. You didn’t have any work to do and its not like you had to use up your personal vacation days to use them. Lots of high-schoolers would start working or bolstering their college resumes with tests and classes over the summers, but it’s a shame that they don’t realize what they’ll soon lose.

In college, its the perfect storm of early adulthood with free time that really lets you start experiencing things that you wanted, or at least stuff you think you wanted. Freshman year is a blitz of hanging out with different people until you find the group you want to hang out with, clubs to try out each week, Greek societies, parties, figuring out your major. You can make some life-altering decisions for the better or worse. It’s wild to think that I made all these choices as an 18 year old. I may have been a legal adult, but I sure wasn’t one mentally.

Free time can be dangerous. You can be as productive as you want to be. Spend all your time partying and you’ll feel the consequences soon enough. Plenty of people will warn you about that, but the inverse is also true. One can spend all your time studying, working, and stretching yourself to the limit. After a point its unsustainable and there’s no one required to stop you from doing it. It’s something I fell victim to and regret immensely. I had so much free time and I used it all to study. Obviously studying is important, but college does offer other services. There were so many people I met towards the end of my college career that I felt would’ve been great people to hang out with, but I only met them once my final classes were more or less done. Clubs I would’ve loved to try were ones I only heard about in my final semester.

Party all the time and your grades will suffer. Study all the time and you will suffer. Both are easy pitfalls to fall into and its up to you and your new independence to find what works best for you.

Free time is a resource and it’s your goal to spread the wealth while you have it.

Finals Season is a crazy time

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Finals.

The worst concept ever created. Death is a more welcoming idea. Whoever thought that it would be a good idea to test students on every single class they’ve had in a matter of a week and have each of those tests be worth anywhere from 20% to 50% of your overall grade should get prize.

Like the complete opposite of a Nobel Peace Prize. A Hitler War Prize maybe.

Finals week is where the men are separated from the boys and it turns out everyone are boys. It really makes you put into perspective what important in your life. If you’ve been through it you’d understand and everyone should go through at least one finals week in their life because you can really find what your purpose is.

Just imagine this. You’re 2 finals in. They’ve weathered your confidence. Studying for Saturday’s two tests is looming over your head. Your eyes ache, your head hurts, and you have not moved from your spot in the library for hours.

What would you rather be doing instead? You start bargaining in your head. “If I study later tonight I can game for about an hour” or maybe “If I just study all night tomorrow, I’ll be able to write that novel I’ve been picking at for the past couple of weeks”

Whatever you’d rather be doing is the real you. You find out what you miss most and it can get pretty mundane. At one point, laundry became an escape from finals for me. I hate doing laundry.

Everyone is a little stressed about finals, but some either have such good grades that one C won’t hurt them while others need a 102 to pass the one last class they need to graduate. Semesters are defined in about a week. I remember freshman year I had A’s and A-‘s across the board. I was content. I was cocky. Why study for finals when I could watch some old cartoons I watched as a kid? I knew what happened in the episodes, but they’re still cool to watch. My good grades so far must mean that I already know everything that I need to know for the finals. I never stood a chance. My naivety was my downfall. That and my fascination with superhero cartoons.

I won’t give out any exact numbers, but it got ugly quick. Like 2017 politics ugly.

I vowed to never let that happen again. The pointless slaughter of my freshman GPA would not be in vain.

I started prepping. My notes marked dates and what the finals would cover. I’d figure out all my finals dates and when I should start studying for each weeks before finals reared its horrible mug. I can’t say that finals for me are easy in anyway, but I sure feel better during the week.

I got time to workout and write (with the occasional cartoon thrown in there). I mean sure I could study more to get that 89 on the final to a 90, but as long as my grades didn’t completely falter I’m content.

Other people I know don’t even bother preparing and it works fine for them. The stress finals puts them into some next level state where their sole purpose in life becomes to absorb information and then spout it out at given times during the test. It’s quite a sight. I’d ask them why they did that to themselves. Why hurt yourself for an entire week? It was the only way they knew and it got the job done. I feel like far too many people hold this philosophy and I respect that.

Some people don’t crack under pressure.

Finals affects everyone differently. At some base level everyone is stressed. I feel like I can relate better with other students because I know they’re feeling something similar to me. However, I don’t handle stress well. You can tell from a distance when I’m stressed; I dress worse, my hair is messy because I play with my hair when I’m unnerved, and above all else I’ll get a forehead full of bright red pimples. Don’t let the appearance full you, I’m used to the stress. I am always some level of stress about something and it is a habit I’m trying to fight off. I’m more focused when I’m stressed, hence why my high school baseball coach referred to me solely as “Mr. Clutch”. I stepped up when it mattered, but man do I feel horrible the whole time doing it.

I try to keep to my routine during finals. Try to eat as healthy as always (with obvious failure), workout everyday, and sleep in a regular cycle.

Some people show no signs of change. A girl I know still dresses like its just another day, her makeup is on like nothing is new, and her demeanor is just as happy as if she was at Disney World. It’s sickening. However, when we sat down to study, she broke down mentally. “I am so screwed, I don’t know anything. I should just drop out”. Fucking hell. Finals got to her too.

Finals induces stress which is dealt with in a variety of ways or not at all. It pushes you mentally and that can leave your body in a way worse off space.

One of my friends from back home always posts stories about him working until 4 AM and then starting his day again at 7 AM. It’s both a shame and a marvel to watch. The kid always tries his best, but putting shit up can add up quick. If I had to choose one piece of advice I could tell myself about finals when I was younger it would either be get as much sleep as you usual do (granted that isn’t much), plan waaaaaaaay ahead for finals, or maintain a routine so your body doesn’t go into shock from the sudden 3 all-nighters in a row.

My high school teacher would tell us while studying for the AP exams, “The hay will already be in the barn the day of the test”. You either know it or you don’t. At some point forcing anything else is only counterproductive.

Or at least I think that’s what that meant. Whatever, I should be studying right now anyways.

Finding Yourself in College

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It’s such a cliche isn’t it? College is where you figure out who you are and where you fit in. High school had you still under the control of your parents for the most part, although I’ve seen some horror stories of parents continuing their reign into college. College gives you a degree which is amazing in itself, but almost as important is how you react to such an increase in freedom.

You wanna drink at 3 AM in your bathroom? In college that’s a typical Wednesday night. Wanna drive a state over to drop acid at some concert? No one is gonna stop you. The sudden shift from subservience to almost complete freedom (within legal confines of course) is yours. Some people feel almost no difference. More of the same for them. Others can’t function. They have been told what to do and why for years and now these fledgling adults were expected to do laundry and homework without someone telling them to do so.

Is it really that simple or is it one of those Hollywood moments? You come in a piece of clay. You exit molded by your experiences and understand exactly what you want to do in life. Some kids just want that dream career or the feeling of accomplishment that comes with a degree. Others just want to find people to make memories with, through video games, clubs, or alcohol. How many ways can you really find yourself though?

I have no clue who I am. Quite frankly I know even less about myself than before and only have one year left to go. I’ve hung out with the partiers, the stoners, the athletes, the nerds, the loners, the weird kids, whatever. The list goes on and on. If there is a cliche for a type of person, I’ve hung out with them. From all of that I found that I have no idea who I fit in with best. There are ups and downs with how each of them handle themselves and it seems so clear-cut from their perspective. For me I was none of those. I was just a wanderer. I enjoyed being with these groups, yet that’s it. Being with them is different than being them.

I get it. Woes is me. The tragic tale of the guy who doesn’t have a place. How horrible it must be to fit in with almost anyone (though I’m not that good at that still trust me). I surely can’t be the only one right? I’m not worried I’ll never find my purpose in college. It’s just a strange realization to be having. Am I missing something? Probably. There was definitely a lecture that explained how to determine who you were in college and I was taking a dump somewhere else at the time.

Maybe the point of college is to show you that you’re never just one thing. Or at least that’s what I’ll use to justify my situation. I mean there is still time for me to figure out who I am, but clearly I’m not looking in the right places.

Maybe my spirit animal got run over by a car on its way to my college.