Approaching the End of College

And We’re Back, Pt. II: Approaching the End

Approaching the End of College

“I’m not ready. I’m ready. I’m not. I am.”

We take a break from our regularly (?) scheduled programming to bring you a public service announcement.

A lot has changed for me in the past five weeks. Elisabeth got engaged (!!!!!!!) (more on this later), and I became her maid of honor. I completed and defended my senior honors thesis, receiving high honors. I turned 22 (hold the Taylor Swift jokes, please). I bought 7 weeks worth of international airfare for an upcoming exploration of Europe before settling down. And, perhaps most presciently, I finally faced the music and came to terms with the fact that I’m graduating college in exactly one month.

The realization that I’m approaching the end of college has not been particularly shocking or depressing. I’ve been “ready to go” for basically this whole year. The truth is, I’m exhausted. I’ve been through four years of extreme highs and lows, and now that I’m nearing the conclusion, I realize that I’m more than ready to welcome some stability into my life that isn’t tethered to how well I’m doing in a particular class or whether I’m thriving socially or extracurricularly. Everyone says that college is a bubble, but I prefer to think of college, at least my college, as a slow cooker. It’s hard not to go a little crazy when simmering in a highly concentrated environment of extreme overachievers, of which I am definitely one. There’s enormous explicit and implicit pressure inherent in almost every facet of college life: the pressure to do well in class, the pressure to become a leader in clubs and sports, the pressure to be socially active and make mistakes but not too many. It’s consuming. It’s wonderful, terrible, depressing, and thrilling.

Phew. Just kidding, guys, I love college. Sometimes. Sometimes I walk around campus and look at the buildings and people and wonder how I could ever leave this place. It’s hard not to feel fondness for a place and time that has been so formative. I have changed immensely in the time between freshman orientation and senior assembly. Now that I’m standing at the finish line prepared to exchange my student cap for an alumni hat, I realize with great certainty that this change has been overwhelmingly for the better. In the conventional sense, I’ve been very successful here: I’ve been a leader, a captain, an active and engaged student, and I’m about to become an honors graduate. I have a great job lined up in a great location and a competitive field. I have a wonderful boyfriend, a loving family – it’s great place to be. But at the end of the day, I don’t consider myself to be a complete success story; I consider my time here to have been a story, in which there have been equal amounts of success and glorious, resounding failure. It’s funny how easy it is to discount failure when you’re finishing on a high note – a year ago, my life was about to come to an end, and now I feel as if I could sprout wings.

Isn’t that just the way? Sure, in the traditional sense, my triumphs overshadow my disappointments. But I’ve come to realize that  it’s too easy to place the emphasis on the wrong things, to be mollified by the misplaced belief that victory is the end of the road. It would be effortless for me to forget at this point how ruined I felt not even one year ago in the wake of my great shortcomings. But I can’t – won’t – let myself forget that feeling: the anger, the disappointment, the self-deprecation that comes hand-in-hand with the sense that you’re just not good enough. The lesson that I’m forcing myself to retain is that life cannot be all or none. There’s no such thing as a purely successful or unsuccessful existence – life is more fluid than that. Finding peace with the person I am at the end of the day is the only way I’ve been able to regain a handle on my own path. The point is that I’m alright with this person I’ve become, regardless of whether or not anyone else thinks that I’ve “made it”. Because really, does anyone ever make it? Aren’t we all just works in progress, constantly growing and evolving our sensibilities? I’d like to think so.

So yes, I’m ready to go. Today, I’m going to sign my first lease on my first apartment in San Francisco and move in with my boyfriend. I’m going to have to buy furniture. At some point, I’m going to have to buy food. In September, I’m going to start working, and I won’t stop working for the conceivable future. The apprehension that I feel now is not unlike what I felt in the above photo, taken almost four years ago when I about to move into my freshman dorm and close the book on my childhood. I’ve gained a lot and lost a lot in the meantime, and I can’t wait to see what the next four years bring to the table. The only thing I can say for certain is that I’m ready.

Approaching the End of College



  • Yelena

    Amanda, I really enjoyed reading this piece. You have great writing skills, I think. I graduated from college a few years ago. Coming in as a 4.0 high school graduate, my belief was that you either have it or not. After I received a B- during my very first semester (after putting all my effort into a class), I decided to think that I did not have it. I started thinking that I can’t be a complete success, because I’m simply not capable of achieving it. I thought a lack of a mentor contributed to that thought, but later realized the real reason was my belief in myself and my abilities. Your post is a great reminder that we can’t be successful all the time, but trying pays off. You should be very proud of yourself and your effort. Unlike you, I did not have a dream job lined up. Even though I graduated with two majors and a minor, graduation did not bring me a sense of accomplishment. It took a few years to start believing in myself again. In my case, success leads to a greater self-esteem, but I want to learn to have it for just being myself. You are right about constantly growing. I think I grew more after college. Good luck in your new endeavors!

    • Amanda

      Yelena – THANK YOU for your kind words and perspective. I think it’s too easy for highly motivated individuals to feel incapable because of the comparison factor – that we somehow don’t stack up against our peers or the expectations that we set out for ourselves. In that case, it’s important to remind ourselves that success can’t and won’t look the same way for everyone, and that our paths are ultimately dictated by us, and us alone. I’m so glad that you’ve been able to regain your sense of accomplishment, because it sounds to me like you are an extremely accomplished woman :)

  • STF

    WTG, Amanda! I’ve known you since you were just a wee thing, and it is amazing to me as well that you have come to very important time in your life — spreading your wings and flying out into the world. Just like a robin, you are leaving the nest.

    Your thoughtfulness about this is something. It’s been almost 50 years since I was at your place in life, and my memory is that I just kept on moving and never thought about anything much. Certainly nothing serious.

    So keep on achieving, and enjoying, and loving it all!

    Best Regards and Best Wishes!

    • Amanda

      Thank you, thank you!! I’m very excited to start this next phase of my life. Your kind words are MUCH appreciated :) see you soon! (hopefully!)

  • Ashley (The Wine Stain Podcast)

    Good luck girl!

    I love school too (I’m getting my PhD), and haven’t left. :)

    I do not have my life together at all and I have no idea what I’m doing after I graduate. Graduation is hard. I wish you the best of luck and I look forward to following your adventures. Looks like you got a great start and a good attitude.

    • Amanda

      That’s awesome! In what area are you earning your PhD? Congratulations to YOU! It sounds to me like you’re achieving big things, and I’m excited to hear more about this fascinating chapter in your life :)

  • Diana

    Congratulations on your thesis, graduation, upcoming travels, and new job!!! Wow! That is a huge amount of change in a short period of time, and I’m super impressed by your thoughtful discussion of the ups and downs involved in these big, scary processes. I have no doubt you have some amazing adventures ahead of you, and wish you all the best in everything!

    Oh, and welcome back to the Bay Area! I’m currently in SF, so if you ever want to meet up in person, send me a message. :)

    • Amanda

      THANK YOU, Diana!! I would actually LOVE to schedule a meetup for when I get back home… maybe we could coordinate with Trina from Of Trees and Hues?? Let me know!

      • Diana

        Awesome! It’d be great to meet you in person and get together with Trina as well! Just send me a message when you’re back in the area and we’ll set it up! :)

        • Latrina | oftreesandhues

          YES!! This needs to happen. :)

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  • Sara

    Congratulations and Good Luck!

    • Amanda

      Thanks so much, Sara!!

  • Court

    College is such a journey – there’s times when I hate it and times when I say I want to be a student when I grow up ;) Congrats on making it to the end of the journey, I can’t wait to see where the next chapter in life takes you!!

    • Amanda

      Thanks so much, Court! I definitely feel you on the weird dichotomy between loving/hating college. It’s a pretty mixed bag, but hopefully things will end up positive overall.

  • Jessica

    “But at the end of the day, I don’t consider myself to be a complete success story; I consider my time here to have been a story, in which there have been equal amounts of success and glorious, resounding failure. ” I love this line, because I don’t is a category that can encompass all that college is, or will be. It’s crazy how fast time flies and I hope that I can end my own college years on a similar note and thought!

    Congrats on your graduation, thesis, new job and move! Everything seems to be going nicely for you and I’m happy for you!

    • Amanda

      I’m so glad that line resonated with you, Jessica!! Your kind words mean a lot :)

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