You know, I reflect a lot back on the last four years I’ve been in college. An awful lot. All those sleepless nights spent putting the finishing touches on papers and projects with either country or Disney music playing in the background.
All those moments in the cafeteria musing about life, watching the boys at the next table, or making small talk with new friends. All those nights spent walking along the Fox River, catching some vestige of a starry night which is so rare with living in a suburb. All those movie nights in the dorms, attempting to cram six people on a couch in order to watch Beowulf or whichever movie struck our fancy at the time. All the time wasted staring at the boy across the room or right next to you hoping for a smile or even a glance. All those hours spent in class and meetings and not knowing how to slow down for just a minute to catch your breath. All of those small moments which are instantly brought to the forefront of the mind upon retrospective reflection.
I’ve reached the threshold that most college students reach. That of the last few days of class before the inevitable march across the stage. And to be perfectly honest, I’m scared as hell.
I’m the type of person who hates losing control of a situation. I want to know what’s going to happen, and I want to make it happen. I’m usually pretty good about taking initiative about my future, but there’s always that subtle, underlying fear of complete and utter failure. But, you know, millions of students around the United States and the world are in the exact same boat as I am.
But amidst the comfort of that knowledge, I find myself slightly panicking at the prospect that soon I won’t have the structure of college that has been my life for the last four years. I will be let loose into the “real world” to make something of myself. People both in my personal life and at work have asked me what I plan to do after school. I respond with the “I’m taking a year off then off to graduate school”. But even the taste of that is bitter. I can’t definitively say what I’m doing. All I know for sure is that I’m remaining in Waukesha and will be working at my off-campus job. That’s it.
But, there’s the potential for more. I have an interview with the Centre for English and Additional Languages at Lingnan University in Hong Kong for the position of a visiting tutor next week. I’m waiting on a call back from a museum job I applied for and for which I had an interview. And people tell me, “That’s fantastic! What a wonderful opportunity!” But I can’t tell them I have it. I tell them, “I’m waiting”. Thing is, I hate waiting.
I’m not the only person feeling this way. I’m poised for some amazing things right now. But there’s that small chance that all that I worked for will amount to nothing. History majors understand how difficult it is to find a job, especially in their chosen field. Plus, there’s a social stigma attached to being a history major (the “well, what can you do with the major?”).
And of course, this is sounding rather pessimistic. But then I find I’m also optimistic about the future. The very fact I’ve received the opportunities for two interviews is a nod in the right direction. It means that I’ve actually done something over the last four years worth remarking upon. Employers are taking notice of me. I have connections. I received an interview for an entry-level position in the museum field, something many other undergraduates with similar aspirations may not be able to say. I may live in Hong Kong for a period of time. Who knows? And there are others out there with similar stories, similar worries, who have opportunities bestowed upon them I could never imagine. And I send my wholehearted congratulations to them (and if such a person is you, then I congratulate you!)! The knowledge that I’m not the only person in this position is comforting as well.
This dichotomy of feelings is natural. I understand that. But it doesn’t make dealing with them any easier. Looking back ten years, we may laugh about it. But for the present, we are living this reality. I’m sure most of us graduating this year are terrified. But as Dr. Seuss once said, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. You are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” Just remember, the only person who is holding you back from your dreams isn’t money or family or a relationship or a job or other obstacles, it is yourself.
And if there is one major thing I’ve learned in the last four years, it is that fact. Reach for your dreams. No one else can live your life for you, and as that ever popular hashtag reads #YOLO. You only live once. So make the most of it. For those of you who are graduating, the best of luck for your futures! I sincerely wish the best for each and every one of you.