So I’m Graduating… Now What?

Like many of you troopers out there, I am finally graduating with my degree from Queen’s University after four long years of hard work, self-discovery, friendships, partying, failures, successes, and just an endless rollercoaster of emotional ups and downs. Personally, I am not melancholy or unsure. I am ready and excited to graduate. I am completely and entirely happy to be closing this chapter of my life and to be embarking on another. Yet, that does not mean that the whole experience is not surreal or overwhelming. After we receive that small rolled-up piece of validating paper, we are awarded our first taste of true freedom and autonomy to choose the course of our own lives. For likely the first time since we were four years old, if we do not want to, we do not have to show up to class next September. We can dip our feet eagerly into a pool of infinite possibly and unavoidable uncertainty. 

Life after graduation typically follows a few common trajectories, which are distinguished by individual motivations and positions. The first pressing priority for most people is money, money, money! Student debt does not disappear overnight and is usually the one residual stressor from university that has to get resolved before one can truly feel liberated and vindicated. Unless, of course, you are choosing to return to school next year, in which case you may be racking up even more financial debt. The silver lining is that you will be able to continue your studies, expand your wealth of intellectual knowledge, become more well-rounded as an individual, and let’s face it: you’ll greatly improve your chances of actually getting a job at the end of all this madness. To the people pursuing further academic goals straight away, to you I say: you are brave and your drive is commendable!

I can definitely see myself returning to university for a master's degree in a year or two. However, I do not feel quite ready yet and my heart is leading me in another direction. Once I finish working in September, the world is my playground and I fully plan on exploring it unapologetically, monkey bar by monkey bar. If I had my way, there is not a corner of the globe I would not go to and not a learning experience I would pass up. I have not just been bitten, I have been deeply burrowed into by a blood-thirsty, attention-seeking travel bug. I know many young people feel me on that one. Yet, money is an unavoidably limiting factor. We can do it all and go everywhere if we utilize the strong work ethic that our degree has ingrained into us - and there is no rush. We have our whole lives to look forward to. 

During our last few busy weeks on campus, I hope we can all find a way to spend as much time with our university mates as possible. They have been there through this whole journey with us, even in those darker moments when this victorious culmination seemed too far-off and intangible. Soak in and appreciate every minute moment you have left with those you care about and gratefully tell the people who’ve positively impacted your time in university that they have done so. I’m realizing that there will not be a lot of instances in life after university where all our commodities, comforts and friends will be so easily accessible and close to us. They call it the “university bubble” for a reason. It’s a blessing, but a blessing that is fleeting and unsustainable. All bubbles must pop eventually. 

Ultimately, please give yourself a pat on the back, by a slice of CoGro cake and genuinely congratulate yourself. You should be so proud of your accomplishment. What we’ve just done was not quick or easy, but we managed to make it to the finish line. Now, it is time to take a deep breath of relief and just openly embrace the freedom, the unknown, and the doubt. Know that you’re not alone with it. We’re all in the same metaphoric boat, but it just so happens that our individual boats will soon be steering off in different directions. We may lose some people along the way and that is okay; we will gain so many more. I can’t wait to see where your boat takes you. I hope it’s somewhere wonderful.