EVERY path you walk ends somewhere, but at every end is yet another branch of roads that must be traversed in your life.
Do you remember the first day of college? Did you pack a little too many pens for that day? Did you get lost on campus because of its size?
Did you feel like the first day of college was your first day as an adult? For many starting college, it was the early days of true independence from parents. Undergraduates, like me, were on a path that would finely mould us into the people who could one day enter the workplace, armed with the knowledge acquired over several wonderful years in college.
And I am sure those of you in college now are finding this newfound independence a world of fun despite the stress of academia.
Yet, all that fun has to come to an end unfortunately.
You will attend your final class and you will put on your academic dress and cap, and you will graduate if you have persevered throughout the years.
On May 12, I graduated with a BA in English and Creative Writing with a minor in Cinema from The University of Iowa in the United States.
I accomplished a milestone many years in the making and saw the smiles of my family members in attendance at the commencement ceremony.
So, how does it feel to graduate? And is it worth it?
To be honest, graduation felt odd. Perhaps it was the extreme lack of sleep in the weeks leading up to graduation, staying awake to finish many essays. Or was it the absurd amount of coffee I consumed to stay awake? And I don’t even like coffee.
I sat in the middle of a large stadium where the graduation ceremony was taking place, among hundreds of students graduating on that day. And though I had no mirror, I knew I was looking at the same blank stare etched upon many of the faces around me.
Many of us had expended an incredible amount of energy and willpower to be granted the right to attend the ceremony. I suspected that many of us had not reserved any energy to sustain us through the two hours we had to sit there. Many of us were probably just coming to the realisation that we were at the end of a path.
And for most of us, the time we spent studying and stressing over exams was a slog, where time sometimes felt like it was just standing still — an unmoving river we were merely drowning in. Yet in the final weeks leading up to graduation, it suddenly all zoomed right by at the speed of light. It was suddenly nearly time to say goodbye to that messy dorm room, campus streets and wonderful friends gained over those years.
And it was time to bid farewell to writing essays and homework. Perhaps all these culminate in the odd feeling at graduation. Suddenly, everything we are familiar with is ending.
A way of life will be left behind all of a sudden.
Suddenly it is a whole new world and you do not quite feel like an adult anymore. You are not ready and you really do not want to leave. But you must.
I knew all along that the feeling of oddity was caused by emptiness. It was a void created from the realisation that I was saying goodbye to so many things, leaving me deflated. I was sad. I am back in Malaysia now, returning to a country ruled by a new government and filled with many new structures and changes to the streets I was once so familiar with. I left behind in America some best friends and I suddenly realise that my heart now exists in two places.
And the strain may take some time yet to heal. I believe many fresh graduates are feeling similar emotions.
And those of you who will graduate in the future will know these flood of feelings too. The void is scary and it is overwhelming to think about. Your heart will feel heavy and you will need time to heal just as I do.
A coin has two sides, but both are part of a single coin. The emptiness comes with the feeling of pride and accomplishment gained from how far you’ve come. You will look at your certificate and remember good times in college.
The stress, the laughter, the tears, the smiles — these go hand-in-hand and are a package.
The certificate is a reminder that you have experienced so much and are educated enough to realise that there is still so much to learn from the world, and you can now tackle all that with confidence because you have graduated.
So back to the question, is it worth it? And, I must say, it definitely is. The years to get to that graduation ceremony were filled with pain but as the saying goes, “no pain, no gain”. The world opens its arms wide open for graduates, it is your duty to face it head on.
And you should be proud that you have done something great, you are fantastic for having completed your college degree and I am proud of you.
And for those of you who are still on the path, keep working at it as it is worth it.
And for those of us who haven’t had enough at the undergraduate level, we can always pursue higher levels of education. I suspect that too will be worth it.
Emillio Daniel has just graduated from an English and Creative Writing course at The University of Iowa in the United States. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: The New Straits Times