Thursday, 2 February 2017

Facing the Certainty and Uncertainty of Graduation


The uncertainty of graduation

It’s almost over. After five and a half years, 38 classes of different sizes, persuasions, and difficulties, I’m just about four months away from a university undergraduate degree.

You might expect someone in my position to be clamouring for the end, to be completely checked out, considering I’ve taken an extra two years to finish something which already takes a massive amount of effort and commitment. However, this isn’t necessarily the case.

There are certain aspects of university I’ll be happy to never experience again: Stats 141, writing papers on uninteresting subjects the day before they’re due, and the tiny desks in Tory basement; but overall, I will miss university. Quite a bit actually.

I’m going to miss the sense of purpose. That place you need to go five days a week strictly to learn, to be social. Working a full time job Monday to Friday does give you something similar, but it’s not the same. I’m going to miss going somewhere specifically to learn, to attempt to better myself, whether it be academically or personally. And honestly, it’s been about an equal split between personal and academic learning for me.

Sure, I’ve learned about Karl Marx’s theory of alienation, I’ve learned basic sign language, and I’ve learned about the tectonic plates (enough to get a B- in EAS 201 in any event), but I’ve learned just as much about myself during that same time. I’ve learned how to cope with failure: figuratively, with my own lingering self-esteem issues, and literally, with Stats 141. I’ve gone through phases of not caring about my degree and feeling completely adrift in my studies, and I’ve felt the satisfaction of being able to bounce back from that malaise and really care about what I was studying. The journey isn’t always enjoyable, but I’m still sad it’s coming to an end.

What makes graduation even more bittersweet is that search for improvement is seemingly supposed to end with it. We’re supposed to graduate, get a full-time job, and have everything figured out. But I don’t feel like I’m quite there yet, I still want to figure out who I am, what I enjoy doing, and where I am want to go with my life. I don’t want that to stop when I graduate university, but once I do, I feel like the clock will be ticking on me. After I graduate there will only be a finite amount of time to figure these things out and then settle into a routine for the rest of my life.

Since Kindergarten, school has been our security blanket. Every September we begrudgingly return as the leaves start to change colours, and every April (or June, depending on whether you’re attending university or not, we skip out the doors into a world full of infinite possibilities. Our lives are scheduled around it for 18 years. So when that consistency is suddenly absent, I’m not sure how I’m going to feel. I’m scared, to be brutally honest. My life isn’t going to fall apart once my degree ends, but not having that known quantity is jarring to say the least. It’ll be a strange feeling to not be preparing for school in late August, and maybe instead preparing for a career. That seems a lot more permanent, and much more of a commitment.  

What I will miss most about university however, is the sense of community. I’ll miss being able to call myself a university student. This doesn’t just mean I’ll miss being able to ride public transit for free (although the U-Pass is great), but I’ll miss campus being my second home, and being able to identify with 35,000 other people in the same situation as me. Don’t get me wrong, there were some days where the last thing I wanted to do was to go to campus, but I’m going to miss being welcomed there as a student, whether I wanted to be there or not. There’s nothing stopping me from going after I graduate, but it won’t be the same. I won’t be a part of that community anymore, I’ll have to move on. It’s a necessity, but that doesn’t make it any less sad for me.

All good things must come to an end, and my university experience is no different. The only thing I can really do when graduation rolls around is remember my experiences fondly, and keep the spirit of my university career alive. Try to keep improving, keep trying to find myself, and always learning and trying to make myself a better person.


Zach - YouAlberta Contributor

Zach is a sixth-year Sociology major with a creative writing minor. Scared of being a real adult and being awake before noon. He can be found either eating, sleeping, meandering in the river valley, or watching a Toronto Blue Jays game. He misses having long hair because now none of his hats fit properly.
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