“What are you planning on doing when you graduate?” It’s a fair enough question, and indeed appropriate considering the fact that I will be graduating this semester. Throughout the course of my college career numerous people have asked me this same question and it never inspired the anxiety, terror, and dread that it does now. Even as recently as last semester I could tolerate the thought of coming up with some sort of answer to account for my post-graduation plans.
The time before May 2009 seemed infinite, a far-off and theoretical shift in my life that I would eventually have to come to terms with.
And now the time has come where I can no longer avoid the ever-looming reality of my impending graduation.
Perhaps my greatest fear of graduating is the loss of the academic world that comes with being a full-time student. As an English major and student in the Honors Program in the Humanities, my mind has been stretched further than I ever thought possible. I’ve been taught by brilliant minds how to dissect a text, and by doing so, have learned about the world around me, and my unique role in that larger place.
Filling my days with such intellectual challenges and stimulation has truly been the most rewarding, joyous, and meaningful experience of my young life; I simply love learning.
The thought of leaving this environment behind is a painful one that leaves me with the fear of an empty future. Without classes to go to and learn from, like-minded people to talk with, knowledgeable professors to consult, and a total immersion in the world of the university, what will my life be like?
I know how to be a good student, I enjoy being a good student; how will I define my life and my self as a non-student?
There is no doubt that my social life will be forever changed post-graduation. At USF I’ve been lucky enough to have found better friends than I ever could have imagined, but what will these relationships look like when we leave USF?
The scattering of people who were once so tightly knit not just by love but also common circumstances will certainly change the face of these friendships, perhaps even becoming nonexistent after a certain point. Even those who remain in San Francisco or the Bay Area at large face the challenge of keeping alive bonds that are no longer supported by the same classes, living situations, clubs and organizations, and jobs.
Not only have my intellectual and social supports stemmed from my college experience, but also my “after-school” activities and sense of personal fulfillment have similarly depended upon the university setting. My involvement with the Ignatian Literary Magazine as well as the Foghorn has filled up my empty hours and given me a sense of purpose, of importance.
More than being in a classroom (although I feel it there, too), being part of a student group in a student-centered setting with a student-centered goal (producing a newspaper [Foghorn] or literary magazine[ignatian]) makes me feel connected to a global student experience beyond the bounds of USF.
On a smaller scale, being a part of these student organizations gives me a chance to make my voice heard—I somehow doubt the Guardian or Chronicle would have any interest in publishing an article lamenting the woes of a young woman about to graduate college.
So where does the lamentation of these woes leave me? Unfortunately not in any place of resolution or reconciliation.
I feel no more assured about graduating than I did before I turned my internal fears into ink on paper.
I wish I could say that confronting these anxieties head-on, working them out through writing, made me see my situation in a new and positive light.
But it seems like the only comfort I can find within all of this is the solidarity amongst all the graduating classes of 2009. Even if a soon-to-be-graduate claims to be counting the days before graduation out of excitement, leaving the confined world of college for the “real” world marks a shift in all our lives; it is a point of no return. Whether we hated or loved college, went to huge universities or tiny colleges, majored in accounting or gender studies, graduation will be a seismic shock for us all. I feel certain of this despite all the uncertainty that looms before me. And that, although insufficient, is comforting.
Anna Shajirat is a senior English major.