My Relationship With… Graduation

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Did you ever read those ‘choose your own adventure’ books as a kid? The ones that offered different endings based on which page or scenario you chose? Well, this article is kind of like that, because my relationship with graduation is two-fold, and offers two very different endings.

If uni was miserable for you…

I feel you. Before I graduated, I used to joke that the number one thing on my pre-graduation bucket list was to rate the best crying spot out of all the places I’d cried on campus. So, if your undergrad experience — like mine — was just one long mental breakdown, and if, like me, you feel that your graduation is nothing but a celebration of leaving prison… that’s okay. On the day of my graduation, I watched everyone around me celebrate and cry as if uni had been the best time of their lives, and the only thing worse than my pre-existing depression was my inability to access anything close to what I thought I should be feeling.

So, to you, I offer the words of hope that I wish someone had said to me:

Performative emotions are not obligatory. Everyone’s uni experience is different. Sometimes the only thing you have to celebrate is the fact that you survived—and that’s okay.

If this day that’s meant to be full of joy is hollow for you, if you’re aching to put uni behind you as quickly as possible, there is nothing wrong with that. Whether you got the grades that you wanted or not, whether you’re leaving more broken than you went in, you are still worth celebrating. Even if you don’t feel like it right now, I hope that one day, you can be proud of your accomplishments. You got your degree. You worked hard. You survived. It’s over. And that is always something to be proud of. So, even if you don’t want to celebrate your time at uni, give yourself the freedom to be proud of your fight, and let that fill you with hope for the future.

If uni was the happiest time of your life…

I get that too. Because just four months after the waking nightmare that was my undergrad, I stupidly went and did a Masters. And it was actually the best dumb decision I ever made. My MA is what brought me to Southampton and what motivated me to build a life for myself in a new country, half a world away from home and everything I knew. This is the course where I made amazing friends and had some of my favourite experiences. This is where I met the professors who encouraged and inspired me, and introduced me to explore new opportunities. This time was when I got my confidence back and re-learned how to be happy.

I graduate this December, and I know that this time, I will celebrate like uni was the best time of my life, and I will cry about being heartbroken to leave because this time around, that’s what uni means to me. And if that’s how you feel as graduation draws near, I hope you can cherish that bittersweet feeling and soak up every moment until you walk across that graduation stage. Hold onto the memories and cherish the times that your friends were right across the hall, because you’ll really start missing that soon. Hang onto your grad ball tickets and any other silly souvenirs you have to remember your time by. Maybe even make a scrapbook.

Because the thing is, no matter what your uni experience has been, graduation is a time of transition. It’s a time of growth. And whether you’re transitioning from a place of pain to a future of freedom or you fear the move from uni to becoming a ‘proper adult’, I invite you to embrace the transition. Allow yourself the freedom to grow into your future potential, whether that involves shaking off uni or holding the memories close. Contemplate what uni has taught you about yourself and let those lessons shape the future you. That’s what I’ve learned from my relationship with graduation so far, and I look forward to what I’ll learn from the next one.

More articles in My Relationship With...
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  4. My Relationship with Job-Hunting
  5. My Relationship With… Therapy
  6. My Relationship With… My Scars
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  8. My Relationship with… The Gym
  9. My Relationship With… Shyness, Confidence and Identity
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  12. My Relationship With… My Boobs
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