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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Millersville chapter.

Hey everyone, I hope you are having a lovely spring season. As anyone in college, we know that spring brings so many great things like warm weather, bright sun, flowers everywhere, and the looming graduation in May.

Although many of the people I entered Millersville University with as a freshman in 2019 are going to be walking to receive their diploma; sadly, I will not be. This is a crossroads for me and I thought I might take the time to put my feelings down into physical words and get it out there.

For those who don’t know, in the spring of my junior year (spring 2022) I changed my major to Early Childhood Education and started taking education classes. Although this is the BEST decision I could have made and am so happy I did. . . it is really hard. I was supposed to graduate this year, May 2023, but I am not doing so. Although I am exceedingly proud of where I have come and the accomplishments I have made there is still an element of despair.

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When I changed my major I had about 2 ADDITIONAL years of classes that I would need to take; I made it only 1 additional year. Everyone thinks I’m crazy for doing so – my friends, family, professors, advisor, and so on but I just had to. I had to try and graduate as close to when I was supposed to as I could. I feel a lot less shame about it now but staying longer than 4 years is evidently pretty normal – wish they told you that. I have worked my ass off taking 18 credit semesters every semester, taking multiple summer courses, and winter classes every year. I feel like I don’t even know how to have a normal schedule sometimes. All the while I feel like if I did not do this and push like this I would be a failure. Weird I know. Doesn’t make much sense to me either but I’m in remission from those thoughts now.

Mostly, I am so proud of myself and what I am doing. I’m getting a degree with the knowledge I need, I’ll graduate with a minor in English and I will have {hopefully, fingers crossed} written, presented, defended, and passed my honors college thesis. All in 5 years. All myself. But I’m still sad and feel down sometimes. . . not good enough.

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I think what I am most down and struggling with about graduation season now is not being apart of it. I don’t get to walk with my friends and take photos all together. I don’t get to walk with my boyfriend who I met 1st week of freshman year. It is a really weird feeling; to compare age, class status, timelines, etc. and still feel behind the pack. I just sometimes allow my insecurity about looking stupid or indecisive or whatever it may be, take over all the other things I know are okay. I really wanted to walk across that stage with my peers who I have been going throughout this whole journey with and the realization that I will not. . . it stings.

I also feel like I am asked about it a lot and always feel the need to tell the entire story and overcompensate my experience just to feel okay. Just to feel like the person or people asking me don’t need any further justification and just accept me as I am. I don’t want to be judged but mostly I don’t want to keep judging myself about it. I know that the first weekend in May is going to be hard and have mixed feelings for me, but I am trying my best to prepare for it.

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There are some positive things about not graduating this year. I genuinely don’t know if I would be ready to do so. Now, if I would have kept my original degree track and finished the classes I am sure that may be different but as of right now I don’t feel ready to leave college yet. I still think I have more to learn and explore before I leave here so that makes me feel at ease. Also, I am a part of the Honors College and have to do an undergraduate thesis/creative project. I am writing a children’s book for this so I am so thankful to have a whole extra year to do so and to not have been stressed/rushed. I will tell you a secret- last year in Fall 2021/Spring 2022 I was barely starting my original thesis project and would have been SPRINTING to the finish if I needed it done by May 2023. I am so relieved I have more time to get it done and get it done correctly. I also am so glad I didn’t take, what I considered to be, the “cheating way out”. This is in referral to a program called the Post-Bach Program. It is awesome but I didn’t feel it was right. This program essentially means I would graduate on time with my current {past} degree and then go into the Post-Bach Program where I would spend a year or so doing education stuff and get a masters degree from that. Although that sounds amazing, for me, I felt like that would be cheating. I say this because I wasn’t going to use my current {past} degree and I didn’t want to spend a little time and get a masters degree for something I didn’t fully know how to do. I felt that would be doing me and my future students a disservice, so I wanted to learn everything I could and dive deep into education classes – that just meant I stayed longer in school.

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Overall, I am extremely happy with my decision and I know it is the right one for me and my future. I love the friends I have made and the professors I have formed close bonds with. I have loved the knowledge and classes I have gotten to take. But most of all, I have LOVED the brilliant children I have gotten to meet during my various field placements. They make it all worth it – they are my why. I feel like even when you know something is right, when you are proud of yourself, when you work really hard, and when you know it will all be okay I still think it is okay to have room for other feelings. I thought that maybe by the end of writing this article I will have threw out my sad feelings of being un-included in this years graduation festivities. I thought I would maybe come to terms with not walking on the stage in a cap and gown. I thought I might “get it together” and realize I am being foolish. Instead, as I write the last few sentences of this article that I randomly decided to write, I am realizing I feel both ways. I feel proud and content with where I am in my schooling process and I feel sad because of what is not happening and that I am not graduating “on time”. I am both glad and sad. I am both okay and disappointed. And that is okay because I am a human being with multiple viewpoints of a lived experience and I can feel different things about the same situation. I can do so because it’s not only my truth and the truth – it’s normal to feel differently about different aspects of a single situation.

If you are going through something similar to this here are some things I did//do in order to cope and get through it:

  • Spend time with the people I love and all my friends
    • Look at photos from my past school years to re-live good memories
      • Take some time for self-care, relaxation, and reflection
      • Attend an on or off campus event I normally wouldn’t
      • Get my favorite food – either to cook or to go out to get and enjoy time with myself/my boyfriend
      • TALK ABOUT IT – it is healthy to feel and to want to express emotions
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      I am very glad I wrote this article. I am glad I let my feelings out, all of them. I am glad I was able to work through the specifics and come out the other side feelings better about my feelings. I hope that whether you are graduating this year, next year, in 4 years, in 12 years, or you already did, I hope you feel everything that comes along with it. Thank you for joining me of this whacky emotional trip through my psyche, I appreciate the company. I hope regardless of your status that you have a wonderful spring season! I am personally going to go and enjoy not dealing with cap & gown orders, trying to divide up tickets, have family members bicker, and getting all my shit together just yet.Good day my fellow friends and remember, stay emotional even when it hurts a bit.

      Until Next Time –

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      Maddie Engleman

      Millersville '24

      Hello! I'm Maddie Engleman; A bit about me: I am a super senior at Millersville University this year, graduating spring '24. This fall is my 7th semester writing for HC which is so cool! I am an Early Childhood Education major and am minoring in General English. I absolutely love kids, writing, reading, cooking/baking, and crafting with my Cricut. I also enjoy spending time around animals! I love being a part of such an empowering platform and get to write pieces that impact people anywhere. HCXO ~ Maddie "Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic." - Albus Dumbledore (J.K. Rowling)