I graduated May 2 from Western Michigan University. More precisely, I walked across a stage, tried to keep my cap on, and shook the university president’s hand as he urged me off the stage.
I didn’t blame him. Hundreds of students graduated that day and my ceremony, the College of Arts and Sciences, lasted two and a half hours. By association and osmosis, everyone in my graduating class shook each other’s hands. That’s kind of cool, but it makes me want some hand sanitizer.
I walked across a stage, but haven’t officially graduated yet. I’ll receive my diploma after the university makes sure I passed all my classes.
The graduation ceremony was existentially flat. The speakers were boring, I only knew a few people graduating, my gown was hot, and I spent most of it taking selfies with Zach.
College was not existentially flat. Higher education was a four-year hot mess of existential crises, doubts, insecurities, performances, walking up hills both ways in the snow, and self-discovery.
While sitting at graduation, I surprisingly did not think about my last years in college. I try not to be cliché, but here’s each year of my academic career in five terms or less:
Freshman year: lonely, YouTube, cheaters, bipolar, ugh
Sophomore year: better friends, writing, dorm, confusing
Junior year: Herald, overwhelming, work, fun,
Senior year: editing, applications, selfish, life, scary
I say selfish because for my whole life I’ve cared way too much about what people think of me. I’m way too self-aware sometimes, worrying about if I’m in someone’s way, if I wasn’t nice enough, if that person would like my appearance. Caring this much is exhausting so I decided to stop. I want to be like Howard Roark, the protagonist in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, but maybe not to that extreme. He lives his life for himself and he doesn’t let anyone influence his thoughts. Everyone should read this book.
Instead of caring about what people think, I try to care about how I can make my day better, what to get for my mom for Mother’s Day, work, writing, how Daenerys will handle her dragons in the next Game of Thrones episode, my friends, and books.
On the topic of books, which is where my mind usually resides, I’ve learned to read very well these past two years. I know that phrase seems odd to non-writing people, but I promise it makes sense. I’ve started paying attention so how things happen in books, as opposed to what happens. Reading is just as important as writing.
My writing has gotten so much better, too. Creative writing classes and reading certain books have taught me tools I use everyday. The best writing tip I’ve ever received is “The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read,” by Margaret Atwood in The Blind Assassin, another book everyone should read.
Besides how to write, here are more relevant things I learned from college:
-Nothing is permanent. I don’t believe in absolutism. There are exceptions to everything, even this phrase. My job at the Herald wasn’t permanent, my health is permanent, living in Michigan isn’t permanent, and my blonde hair isn’t permanent (but the curls are forever). Even AP style, the grammar rules for journalism, change every year. A lot of news sources have their own version because they're rebels.
-Always do your own independent research about everything. Never take someone else’s opinion as canon(truth).
-Always do research on a topic before tweeting or Facebooking about said topic. This is an easy way to avoid looking like you have the intelligence of a doorknob. It’s okay to tell someone “I couldn’t tell you my opinion because I don’t know enough about the topic to have an informed opinion.”
-Adding an “s” to words like “toward” and “anyway” is the British way of spelling those words, and I like feeling British, no matter how many red marks are on my stories.
-You’ll meet few people in college who you actually want to stay in touch with.
-People like weird things. I wrote a story about a support group for cannibals and my class really liked it. I’ll post it soon.
-Professors aren’t always right or helpful. Some just suck. Although, some professors are amazing, intelligent creatures who you don’t always believe are human because they’re so smart and inspiring.
-Be curious and open to others’ opinions. Not everyone’s right, but everyone has a different point of view which further helps to round yours.
-I really like words. “Recalcitrant,” which means resisting authority, is an amazing word because each “c” is pronounced differently.
-Goodbye columns are easier to write if you write them like the The Hobbit. I wrote one for Herald and you should read it here. I’m extremely proud of it.
I did amazing things in college, especially working at the Western Herald. It’s the busiest I’ve ever been in life, but also the most rewarding and surprising. I was one of the lead reporters for our most controversial story, and I made many connections. I love my coworkers dearly and will miss them very much. There were no tears during graduation. I was too busy trying to figure out where to hide my phone. However, I almost cried during my last day of work. I might cry driving home later this week, but that’s okay. I’ll probably be sobbing and scream-singing Taylor Swift in the car.
I start my job, *ahem* career, at Tri-County Times with a 401(k) plan, legal documents and everything on May 11, next Monday. It feels so adult and completely different from the past 21 years of my life. Yes, I’m excited.
Everyone keeps telling me congratulations on graduating, but all I think of is my first assignment for TCT. I’m looking forward to working and not being in a classroom.
I always think far ahead. In a few months, I plan on finishing my first 13-episode TV show, and in a year, I plan on finishing my first book. Yes, I know it’s a challenging field. No, it does not deter me. I have goals, ideas, aspirations, perspiration, and perseverance. I will be successful.
Like everything in life, I never know how to end things and I don’t believe in goodbyes. I’ll just leave you all with this picture of Zach and me after graduation, trying to catch confetti. He ate a piece and it was hilarious.