Tuesday marked my last day of undergraduate classes. I am on track to graduate this month, and to walk in commencement next May. After seven years, three schools, and two majors, I’m finally going to get a bachelor’s degree. This is something I’ve been waiting for, something I didn’t think would happen since I had to drop out of the first university I went to. When I felt like a failure, I didn’t think I’d ever be in this position, much less in the wake of all the changes I’ve made since then.
And yet…I’m not happy.
I’ve been asked a few times already what it feels like to be done—how it felt walking out of class for the last time, to not have to wake up early today to catch the bus and head to campus. I know these people mean well, as they are all people who know about how hard I’ve worked to get to this point. However, I felt some anger and defensiveness the first time my boyfriend asked some variant of the aforementioned question, both of which were ordinarily misplaced.
So why wasn’t I happy? Why am I not happy, now?
For the past seven years, my worth has been tied to an academic career. I have focused on my schoolwork entirely, was told to not worry about a job because that might detract my focus from doing well in classes. Papers, projects, group meetings, as well as all the frustrations and joys involved in them, have been at the center of my world since 2010. No matter how hard I worked to be done with it all, I’m standing on the other side, feeling less than joyful. I feel lost, without purpose, in a world asking–then demanding–that I come up with something to do.
I want to ask my former professors how it felt when they finished their first degree, or even their subsequent ones. I want to know if there was even a moment when they felt as useless and hopeless as I do right now. If they were able to get through it, then I might be able to rationalize some wonderful conclusion to my own situation. However, I’ve never been good with intermingling my personal thoughts and feelings with the more formal academic atmosphere, including talking to former professors. It’s a respect thing, which may seem stuffy to some. However, it remains, and prevents me from letting my guard down to have some human minutes with some very open and accepting people. I was lucky to choose this department with my major, and yet I can’t take full advantage of what it has to offer me.
So, I’ve gone and gotten myself stuck. Where do I go from here?
The answer is that I have no idea. I’m torn between what I wanted for the longest time, and what fits with what I’ve done in the last couple of years. My lack-of-purpose feeling has led me to explain that I view my future in terms of “survival of the fittest”–if I have nothing to contribute, I am a waste of resources. I am a drain, and I should really take care of that before anyone comes to me and says what I already know. I feel like I’m on a one-way track to becoming a bum–no, something worse: barely a mist (something you could swear you just saw, but it’s already faded to the point where you begin to doubt if you had ever seen it in the first place).
Come to think of it, I already feel the mist in my bones. There are clouds in my head and no amount of rain makes them disappear. My room is the sanctuary where my limbs find rest, away from the world which demands of me that which I cannot give. Or have I given at all? I would like to think I’ve made some impact, but the fact of my mindset is that all was done in vain.