As my graduation quickly approaches, I feel elation, relief, anxiety, exhaustion, pride and a little loss.
It is amazing how one event could spark so many emotions. Graduation, however, seems to be one of those times one never forgets for a wide variety of reasons.
There is certainly great joy involved with graduation.
All the time and effort, all the dedication and sacrifices made are coming to an end. No more worrying about keeping up your grade point average.
No more trying to balance your commitment to your program along with the other commitments you have chosen or which have been thrust upon you.
There is great elation as well in finally reaching this milestone.
This certainly is true for me.
Though my family was no better off than our neighbors, our parents made higher education a priority. Both of my parents made it only to high school and only one graduated.
The pressure they felt to help out was enormous and they accepted their responsibility with grace.
But, for their children, whatever sacrifices they were asked to make to give us the opportunity they had missed were made. They allowed us to make the decision of whether we wished to go to college without interference from them.
Blessedly, there was no pressure one way or the other. But for those of us who wanted to go to college, they were always there to do whatever they could to make it happen.
As a result, three of us have gone on to get our college degrees, certainly a legitimate reason for joy and celebration. In fact, both the oldest and the youngest in my family will be Temple University graduates as of May 2000.
There is definite relief in coming to the end of this particular road.
It is often close to impossible to find enough time for any kind of a life.
Meeting the demands of coursework and classes is difficult, but, as many know too well, it is doubly difficult trying to meet work responsibilities.
Add to the mix the day-to-day responsibilities of laundry, housework, pets, cooking and you get the picture.
I know, for myself, it will be a relief to have less pressure.
Pride in the accomplishment is an important component. I will not reveal here the length of my pursuit of a degree (except to say it was shorter than the last millennium but not by much).
However, there were many roadblocks in my way, self-imposed and otherwise. There were many twists and turns that previously were never taken into account or anticipated.
As I come closer to the end of this particular chapter of my life, I am hard-pressed to say precisely what kept me going for such a long time.
Not death, disease, finance nor course requirements I felt ill-equipped to handle seemed to deter me. But in spite of having no clue about why, there is a sense of pride in having moved mountains, big and small, to get here.
Beyond the elation, pride, and relief of graduating, there is a sense of anxiety that increasingly creeps up as graduation day approaches.
It is an anxiety born from expectations, both others’ and mine.
As well-intentioned as some may be, I must say that it is nerve-wracking to listen to people repeatedly ask, “So what are you going to do now? What are your plans?”
For me, my first thought is, “How the hell do I know? It took everything in me to get me this far. I’m expected to have that answer also?”
The anxiety from these questions is firmly rooted in my own confusion. With these questions, I am forced to once again confront the ever-present ghost that always has haunted me about what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I thought by this point I would know exactly what I wanted to do.
Instead I am forced to accept and work with the few glimmers revealed of what I might want or like to do. I am forced to deal with the possibility that I may never know exactly what it is I want to do. Instead of pining for something that may never happen I know it is important and constructive to move forward and take risks.
Maybe in that risk-taking there may be hope that some spark might ignite and illuminate my journey for answers.
Finally, there’s a certain sense of loss attached to graduation. While not every professor or class fulfilled my expectations (honestly, some didn’t even come close), when they did it was exhilarating.
I’d feel a rush of enthusiasm and commitment I’d never known. I was jazzed and, at those moments, truly realized the joy of education. I will miss those moments as will many classmates who were part of this particular journey.
Many provided insights, inspiration, and camaraderie I may never have known if I had not taken this path.
So, as I see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, there is no one definitive emotion I am experiencing but quite a jumble that may take some time to sort out.
But all in all this has been a journey I would gladly embark upon again (at what I hope would be a somewhat faster pace). What I hope for myself and all my peers is for them to have a sense of satisfaction that, in spite of all the obstacles and challenges, we all made the final grade.