For as long as I can remember, I have been counting down to the last day of school. Graduating from university used to seem like a far-off event that would never happen, but now here I sit. Just over a week away from walking across the stage and receiving my bachelor’s degree. I was beyond ready to graduate and finally get out of school, but now that it is staring me in the face I can admit I am nervous.
In the four years I have attended the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, I have been able to do some amazing things and meet some truly extraordinary people. I met my two best friends freshman year, I helped publish a book, I made life-long connections while studying abroad, and I had the privilege of working for this wonderful publication. I am so grateful for the people I have had the pleasure of learning with and the people I complained about reading middle English with. And of course, I cannot leave without giving many, many massive thanks to the professors and professionals who kept my love of literature alive and gave me the support I needed to follow my dreams.
I have had the last month to re-acclimate myself to living in the United States and think about life after graduation. Most of the thoughts I have are ones of terror: fearing the unknown, wondering where the years went and how I got to be so old. I am such a small little pebble in this big wide world, so am I even worthy of success? How do I get to a place where I belong? Et cetra, et cetera, et cetra. Sometimes I find myself seriously disinterested in things I used to love and become immobilized by existential crises.
It is in those times that I sit back, breathe, and remember: There is always hope.
The unknown will always be a constant as you can never know what life will hold. That is not something to fear. Grab a battering ram and break through the fear that blocks the metaphorical door to your future. Self doubt may come with that fear of the unknown. Stare your self doubt down, stick your finger in its face, and tell it that you are a fantastic human being. You have skills and you have worth and you will do amazing things. And yes, mortality can be hard to swallow sometimes. Very often I forget that I am 21 years old and not 86 years old. We are all still so young and there is plenty of time to live, to experience, to learn.
After graduation, I am packing up and moving eastward. Though I do love this state and it is where I grew up, I have never truly felt a sense of belonging here. However, I do know that I belong in England as it is where I was born and will forever hold the largest place in my heart. With that, I am consciously making a change and taking steps to get somewhere I love. I am doing it to make me happy because life is far too short to stay in a place you do not feel like you belong just because it is safe and comfortable. Do something that scares you as it may turn out to be the best decision you will ever make. Send a love letter, move across the country, audition for the principal role of a Broadway production. Whatever it is you feel passionately about, do it.
Growing up and being in your 20s is terrifying, but it is also the best time of your life. All of us will take missteps and none of us will be immune to sadness, but we all have the power to do something. Chase your dreams, never stop learning, wear sunscreen, and, most importantly, find what makes you happy and allows you to live the best life for you.
Congratulations, class of 2015! May you continue to blaze all the trails life takes you on.