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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Column: Really great expectations

As the final days of college approach for us graduating seniors, the inevitable “what comes next” question looms in most of our sweet little hearts and heads. This time can be both overwhelming and exciting, as we cling to fleeting memories of these past years in Collegeland.

For some, anxiety about life after university has transformed into apathy, or just plain fear of uncertain plans.

Perhaps it’s the fear of a future spent sitting in a box outside of your parents’ residence, after refusing to move back into their home, but lacking the funds to rent an apartment. Maybe it’s a feeling of apprehension to continue applying to jobs after feeling constantly rejected, quickly losing the sense that you’re a very special snowflake.

But continuously worrying about whether these decisions are right in the eyes of others is simply unproductive.

One particularly dreary Winter Quarter morning I found myself at the breakfast table practically crying into my bowl of cereal, beginning to feel the pressure to live up to expectations of what I felt I should do after college. After being accepted to every journalism graduate school I applied to, I realized the financial costs and simply the need for a break from school were barriers to going straight to graduate school.

In a recent standard post-graduation conversation with a friend, the “what are you doing after graduation?” question came up. “Dinner” he quickly replied, then paused and corrected himself, “Oh, you mean what I’m going to do with my life?”

This refreshing response demonstrates an hour-by-hour, day-at-a-time approach to managing the possibly daunting post-college timeline.

I guess mostly I’ve been scared because for the first time in our lives we have this incredible choice to do whatever we want. There’s no certainty of going off to school for four years. There’s no marking in my planner comparable to “History 111B test” on Jan. 25 that says “you will receive job offer from blahblahblah” on June 17.

I’ve sometimes felt like I needed to be a lawyer or a doctor to preserve, and support, the rights of women that past generations fought so hard for. At the same time, I’ve come to accept that it’s not necessarily about what you choose to do with your life, but ultimately, that you have a choice in the first place. These are rights that were being taken away, not privileges, and it’s really best to not constantly question what we choose.

We need to make choices because they’re what are not only best for us, but that also allow us to attain a chunk of happiness.

Sometimes the hardest person to be kind to is oneself and as difficult as it may seem, we need to be generous to ourselves as we stumble into the real world.

So, as we bike off into the proverbial post-graduation sunset, let’s try not to worry so much about what lies beyond after darkness falls and uncertainty replaces that very sure sun that was college.

In a piece by author Augusten Burroughs, he writes about how our bones came from stars, meaning we are all made from recycled bits and pieces of the universe. He states that it’s important to consider that billions of years before we were students and mothers and dog trainers and priests, we were particles that would form into star after star after star until forever passed. Instead of a star, what formed was life: simplistic, crude, miraculous.

He writes that after another infinity, there we were. And this is why for us, anything is possible, because we are made out of everything.

Take comfort in the fact that it’s okay to be a little wistful – all of your experiences will remain a tiny bit a part of you – like the calcium in your bones that came from the stars.

Take comfort in the fact that what awaits you, beyond this sun, though it may not be definite, is a bigger and brighter future that beckons because you really are a special snowflake, or rather a special star.

ANGELA SWARTZ wants to thank all her lovely co-workers, and other kind humans, for a wonderful four years working at The Aggie. She can no longer be reached at city@theaggie.org, but at akswartz@ucdavis.edu.

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