Staring Down the End

Staring Down the End

Photo Credit: Stefanie Menezes

A letter to my second-year self about graduating

Stefanie Menezes, Lifestyle Editor 

There are less than 100 days left in the semester. For some students, the end of the term means a four-month safe haven from the pressures of academic life. For others, it means the beginning of summer school and learning eight months of material in a quarter of the time. For several thousand of us, summer will bring a bittersweet victory and a lot of mixed feelings. I always thought I would be excited to graduate, but as the day approaches, I find myself feeling less ready to leave. In some ways, I am excited — I want to celebrate this win and all the work that I put into it. Thinking of graduation often turns into a stress fest because of the uncertainty of what you’re going to do next, when it is actually a really great opportunity to reflect on how far you’ve come. In these final years of school, I have experienced so many joys that my second-year self, who was facing all kinds of uncertainty in the pandemic, never would have imagined. If I had the chance to talk to her, this is what I would say. 

Dear me, 3 years from graduation, 

The next two years are going to be crazy, but you’re going to go so much further than you think. I know the future looks bleak and you have no idea what you’re going to do, but trust me, you’ll figure it out. Well, you’re still not totally sure what you’re going to do, but nobody really is. You’re going to come across a lot of people who seem like they have their whole life planned out, but trust me: they are still putting the pieces together. Some of them just have a clearer idea of what they want in life but are figuring out how to make it happen, and some of them are putting on a show to hide the fact that they are just as lost and scared as everyone else. 

Approaching graduation, you’re pretty scared too. It seems like once you’re out of university, everything is unpredictable — but dude, you have no idea how amazing unpredictability can be. Let me tell you about the unimaginable things that have happened in the last two years: you become a section editor for your college newspaper and an executive on another club, started learning 3 new languages (and spoke Italian with locals in Italy), built a dictionary as a research project, started teaching Catechism classes at church; and did something that felt impossible even before the pandemic: you made a lot of really good friends at university. That’s not to say it was easy. There was a lot of hard work and stress involved — but when you think about how you never would have imagined these things would happen, doesn’t the uncertainty of the future start to look a lot like the endless potential to find and love new things? 

Right now, you’re coasting in basically all of your classes. You’re pretty much coasting through life in general. Second year is known to be the hardest, after the excitement and novelty of university wears off and you start realizing how little you really know. You’ve really internalized the whole “Cs get degrees” idea, but by the end of university, you’re back to being a perfectionist and bothered by Bs. That might not sound like a good thing, but for you, it is. One day, you realize that you enjoy your classes and love learning again, so every day after, you make a conscious effort to be doing your best. Sometimes that looks like eight hours in the library, and sometimes that looks like just getting through the day. Everyone coasts now and then, but you’ll find your way out of it time and time again. You’ll be shocked to learn this, but you take a fifth year; and believe it or not, you still want to go back to school after graduation. 

You might be wondering what you’re going to do after you graduate. That makes two of us. The tough part about finding your passion for learning is that it isn’t limited to one topic. So, if you were hoping to hear that you’ve solved all of your problems and set the course for the rest of your life, then you’re reading the wrong letter. What I can tell you, though, is that that is not a bad thing! If the biggest problem you have is how many things you care about, you’re probably doing alright. All I know is that you’re going to apply to a bunch of graduate programs, maybe get rejected and cry over a few, and then you’re going to trust that there is no wrong direction when you trust yourself and God. 

Embrace the unpredictability of life and go into the wilderness that awaits with your head held high. Be ready to do the hard work, lose everything that isn’t meant for you, and learn that life is nothing like you think it is. One day you feel like nothing will ever be okay again, and a few days later you’re getting matching haircuts with your best friend and screaming in the car about boys and celebrating your career wins together. Everything turns out so much better than okay. 


You, 3 months from graduation 

And if you’re reading this, about to graduate, terrified or excited or both: I am so proud of you too. Congratulations! You made it through U of Tears. I’ll see you at convocation — don’t forget to say hello and goodbye.