American politician and diplomat Adlai Stevenson once said, while addressing a graduating class, “When you leave here, don’t forget why you came.” As graduation season hastily approaches, digesting the concept of graduating is as equally bewildering as it is enthralling.
The great graduation paradox has impending graduates at a crossroads. On one end of the spectrum, receiving a degree is a mark of completion to the grueling and what seems like endless phase in one’s life. It’s a conclusion to all night studying, horrid group projects and feeling plagued during midterms and finals.
On the same note, graduation is like being handed a blank sheet of paper with permission to start the next chapter. Students receiving diplomas at their commencement ceremonies on May 21 have contemplated how to start over.
Just as soon as students are able to proudly shift the fringed tassel from the right side of the cap to the left, a symbolic gesture signifying the official completion of one’s schooling, life’s unpredictable breeze seems to brush it back over.
In the last year I’ve contemplated the perplexing matter of what to do after the congratulations have all been said, the celebration ends and reality ensues. As an act to divert my post-graduation jitters, thoughts of my high school graduation continually replay in my head.
Graduating high school seemed less celebratory and more a rite of passage for my group of peers and me. What we envisioned the first day we anxiously stepped on campus our freshman year became reality promptly four years later. The mood was light, the optimism was high. Bright-eyed and just of legal age, high school graduates have a fearless aura about them. I remember possessing a type of self assurance I never experienced before. With the days of compulsory school no longer prevalent I was free to live out my passions with complete abandonment of a legal guardian’s authority.
Somewhere along the way I lost my “I can do anything” luster. The bad thing about increased freedom and will to do whatever one wants is the accompanying responsibility, which proves to be expensive. It requires a young adult to either learn to live without much or to get a job. I decided the latter was more reasonable.
Getting caught up in the flurry of wanting to make my family proud I decided to attend community college. I frequently considered why I was at school since I spent two years just going through the steps, not really taking much in. Of course when I transferred to Fresno State as a junior I haphazardly picked a major out of necessity. I figured I would have some grand epiphany along the way that would advise me which way to go and what to do for the rest of my life. I’m still waiting for that whimsical “aha” moment.
I often wonder how many students get caught up in the rush of it all and unintentionally end up being fragments of who they originally set out to be. For some, the new role is far better than what they imagined, but for others like me it can evolve into an unpleasing role formed out of fear and disregarding passion.
I came to Fresno State to discover what I wanted to and who I was set to become. The answer is still pending, but I’m starting to realize the discovery phase may be the most exhilarating part of it all.