By Cady Inabinett, Editor in chief
Half the fun of Halloween is thinking about the things that make chills run up your spine: ghouls, goblins, spiders, vampires, things that go bump in the night… the impending feeling of doom and dread prompted by your senior year of college?
One of those things is not like the other. One of them is much, much scarier. And I am, assuredly, not having fun thinking about it.
After getting through a hectic midterms week, I was hit with a sudden realization: I’m now more than a quarter of the way through my last year of college. That realization terrified me more than just about anything else could. Life as I know it is terrifyingly close to ending.
More than anything, this is an identity crisis of sorts. Sure, there are other worries and anxieties tied up in this—I mean, there’s the whole matter of seeking employment, ideally receiving a halfway decent paycheck and figuring out how graduate school is going to fit into the mix—but at the core lies one question: who am I?
Just like, presumably, many of you reading this, I’ve been a student practically my whole life. On top of that, I have always, more or less, loved school and being a student. Even before I started school, I loved school. When I complain about schoolwork, my mom always loves to tell me an anecdote of how I cried on my fifth birthday because I had thought that meant I could start kindergarten that same day. She tells me this, not as a way to tell me to stop complaining, but as a reminder of how much I have always loved to learn. A reminder that I’m lucky to have chances to keep furthering my education and doing what I love.
That being said, my devotion to school has been a bit of a double-edged sword. I’ve not had much of a life outside of being a student and I don’t really know who I am without the structure of going to and participating in school. So, when I graduate in May, where does that leave me?
Sometimes it feels like I have the opposite of senioritis. I hear others talking about how ready they are to graduate, to be finished with school, and I can relate to some degree. Being a student can be very stressful a lot of the time, and I’m as ready to be rid of that stress as anyone else. But, mostly, I can’t help but feel a deep, growing dread in the pit of my stomach, accompanied by a strong feeling of apprehension. Everyone else seems happy and excited, so why can’t I be? What’s wrong with me?
It really does feel like, in a way, my life is ending. But does that necessarily have to be a bad thing?
Lately, perhaps as a result of this ongoing crisis, I have been trying to reframe my thinking about endings. What I’m about to write is very cheesy and is in no way groundbreaking, but I’ve come to the realization that an ending is just a new beginning.
I mean, yes, life as I’ve known it is going to be over, but I’m not actually dying. I’m 21 years old, I still have my whole life ahead of me, it’s barely even begun. To act as if my life is going to end the moment I graduate is, admittedly, a bit overdramatic. Of course, I don’t have to know who I am now. I have my whole life to keep figuring that out.
This shift in thinking is applicable to my anxieties about so many of my post-graduation worries. A lot of my anxiety about graduating, identity crisis aside, stems from the fact that I still don’t really know what I want to do post-graduation. Don’t get me wrong, I have ideas of what I want to do, but that’s the problem. I have too many ideas. I feel like I did the opposite of what you’re supposed to do during college: I came in with one idea of what I wanted to do after I graduated, and I came out with at least five more. Fantastic.
But the other day, when I was in a particularly good mood and felt a bit more in love with the world than usual, I realized that I had been thinking about this in an unhelpful way, too. Instead of being paralyzed by choice, I should be excited about my potential. My life isn’t ending, it’s just starting really. And, there are so many new and exciting opportunities I can explore in the future, Isn’t that wonderful?
Ultimately, I’m still afraid of graduating. It’s not exactly something I’m looking forward to—something I want to spend my time thinking and daydreaming about. But, at the same time, I know that graduating won’t kill me, Well, probably won’t kill me, at least.
If you’re reading this and you feel similarly, I wish I had better—or, really, any—advice to give you. I suppose the best I can offer is a reminder that you are not alone in your feelings and fears. I know it’s difficult to feel scared about something that you feel like you should be happy about. But, remember, fear and excitement are not mutually exclusive emotions and experiences. In fact, I think that the most exciting, wonderful things in life are often the scariest as well. Embrace this moment. Feel your feelings. You’ll make it through, you’re not dead yet.
Cady Inabinett is the editor in chief of The Alabamian. She’s majoring in English and double-minoring in political science and peace and justice studies. She enjoys reading, watching movies, caring for houseplants and generally just being pretentious in her free time.