College lasts four years for a reason. Sure, some take it faster or slower, but the overall four-year plan gives just the right amount of time to take risks, get comfortable again and yearn for something more. As I approach graduation this spring, I can’t help but feel momentum pushing me forward.
I’ve outgrown Indiana University, and like anything you really love, at some point you have to let it go.
Yes, I feel very scared. I majored in theatre and journalism, but I don’t plan to work in a newsroom (never say never). My career path will likely include a lot of freelancing and auditioning. This transient lifestyle frightens me at times, when I think of trying to pay rent or even worse: trying to live a creatively fulfilling life. While my friends in the business school have had jobs lined up since October, many of which start at a much higher income rate than I could ever dream of, I have to wait around until spring to really start looking for small positions or auditions that I could feasibly attend.
I plan to move to Los Angeles post-grad. I lived there as a kid, and I’ve thought about it every day since. While I lived out there, I heard the saying “If you think about it every day, you should probably do it.” Maybe that tricked me into thinking about moving west every day for 10 years, but maybe I just actually really want to.
Los Angeles paints itself a hazy picture in its own movies and television. We have the LA of “New Girl,” full of fun and friends, and the LA of “La La Land,” a hopeless place for anyone to do anything. It seems very hard to say what it will turn out to be until I actually see for myself.
My time in undergrad taught me to take risks and push my comfort zone to expand every semester.
Everything that once felt uncomfortable, unsure or unsafe (never literally, I promise, Mom) not only now feels within reach, but composes my most cherished experiences in college. My semester abroad, my class on vampires, my goofiest roles on stage, directing my best friend’s musicals, becoming a new student orientation leader. I hope that sticks with me when I move out on my own.
This, “why not?” attitude toward taking chances and exploring something didn’t always work out. I, of course, more crisply remember when it did. But I joined many a club without knowing what it was and started many a venture that proved a little less exciting than I’d hoped. I’ve learned to just keep trying. Eventually you gain something.
As I inch closer to the graduation ceremony in May, I recognize the losses life will deliver when I leave. I’ve watched my older friends graduate and lament how the first year post-grad ranks among the worst of your life thus far. You might lack friends, purpose and identity. I don’t expect to escape this.
I’ve been a student essentially my whole life. I’ve never not said where I go to school when someone asks what I do. Very soon, I won’t have that answer to fall back on. I’ll just be Kaleigh, the freelance writer, or Kaleigh, the struggling actor. But I don’t plan to ever stop learning.
When education succeeds, it inspires a love of learning that extends beyond any classroom. Whether it inspires a new love for a topic or equips students with tools to navigate the world and its endless information, the skills Indiana University taught me won’t leave me as quickly as I’ll leave them.
Perhaps the saddest part about graduating will prove the loss of student discounts.
I kid, but that will deliver a real blow.
When I returned this fall for my senior year, I made a promise to myself to not panic about remembering everything. All I needed to do was make my time here worth remembering, and it would take care of itself.
As I return for one last semester, I won’t take for granted my friends gathered in my living room on a Sunday night, watching Planet Earth or arguing over the ethics of double-dipping in the Papa John’s garlic butter. I won’t take for granted the grand sense of unity in community at my Big 10. I won’t take for granted all the opportunities IU affords me.
Finishing college makes the passing of time feel strange. I feel simultaneously like we just started playing ice-breakers on my freshman dorm floor last week and that sophomore year happened to me many moons ago. College acts as a vortex and a time like no other.
My time at Indiana University and the community I’ve found here have shaped me more than any other experience in my life. I could feel sad that it ends, but my time here has given me the energy and confidence to move on. I could drag my feet and let it happen to me, or I could make active choices, big ones, that control my own future. They might and almost surely will backfire at some point, but I’ll own them as my own. College gave me my first taste of independence, but now I’ll take the real leap.