“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.