You start feeling the bottlenose that is graduation as a senior in college. You feel like a toothpaste tube being ringed out onto a public paper towel. “Behold his worth!” the announcer might say. And I definitely don’t feel ready to show off my, ‘toothpaste’ or my ‘worth’ to a collective crowd of adults with life figured out.
I will graduate, but will I like doing my job for eternity?
Would my life-sentence of work feel more like walking a metaphorical pirate plank into a deep sea of depression? Or would it be a more, gradual and steady nosedive into that very same sea of crackling depression? OK, of course a positive scenario exists. But it has always been harder for people (me) to think positively about their futures, even if it seems promising.
So then it becomes time to splooge out your toothpaste. You might feel happy to finally reach a finish line. Or maybe you are confused on how to actually, ‘get a job,’ or whatever.
Whatever you think, we are taught, that you should not feel that way. After 16 years of school, with a specialized study path for four of them, you should feel completely ready to live out the rest of your life. You should feel so sure that it hurts. Look around, your friends aren’t scared or confused, why are you such a special type of numbskull?
Back to freshman year.
Three years ago, I attended a freshman orientation event. The professor pandered to us a couple of times about Kanye West and hip-hop music, but he started to lose the room. Many scrolled through Twitter and some got up and unapologetically left.
The topic of the night ran something along the lines of making the most of your college years. Speaking from a student’s perspective, this topic always feels patronizing, so I barely listened myself. Then this professor dropped a slice of smarts that if you weren’t paying close attention, would slip past you:
“Life is super long, even when you have a career; maybe a couple of successes in that occupation, you will still not know what the hell you are doing. Nobody ever knows what they are doing, and if they tell you they do, they are lying.”
Many laughed because an adult had said the word, “hell”. But people like me, internalized the sentiment. This man was accomplished and respected. How could he not, ‘have it figured out’? Why couldn’t he throw up a slide after saying, “might want to write this down”, and let us in on what we should specifically know in order to conquer every monster we meet?
It was cool to hear such a nonuniform opinion on living, but I still dropped the philosophy the minute I left the lecture hall. I forgot, ‘not figuring it out ever,’ was even a possible conclusion to my college experience. I forgot because others never let me remember. No one ever showed me even a blink of weakness in three years of college. Everyone lied. Everyone played a character.
Flash forward to present time, my senior year.
“I just don’t know if I’ll be happy doing it forever,” My friend informed me this year. She felt flustered that everyone seemed so sure, while she was so unsure.
Then my memory was jogged back to freshman year, back to the moment I half-logged somewhere in between a crease of my brain. I remembered the words of a professor I would never took. My friend now showed weakness, this stunned me.
“Nobody is sure,” I told her.
“Everyone is faking it.”
She told me that sometimes it is hard to think that. But like an anonymous professor told me as just a wee freshman: life is longer than you think. Get the degree and regret it? Fine. Strive for success in some other part of your life. You can go back to school. You can become an aspiring artist in your free time while working that job you want to escape. It’s never too late to start over. It’s never too late to create the life you would love to live.
Again, how could you be such a special type of numbskull?
People don’t like to get vulnerable. People don’t like to tell you that they feel scared, or that they carry doubts. They want to look confident, they want to look impressive. That’s why all of your friends seem like they already figured it out.
Life is not sprint. Life is so long you could exhaust a hundred career paths and make room for one more. Going into graduation, I will remember these two instances aggressively. And I will tell others when I’m scared (which is often). We might never know what we are doing, but we sure can relate on that.
Don’t feel the need to flex on your friends. Don’t try to look impressive if you don’t feel it. Sit down with your friends and cut through that layer of social regularity, and tell them you failed an essential class sophomore year. Be vulnerable. We can surely find solace in our shared ignorance of life. And that might be the most certain we will ever be.