On March 20th my college experience came to an end. Three months too early. March 20th was the day all students at Illinois State University received an email stating the Commencement Ceremonies for Spring 2020 graduates would be canceled and courses would remain online through the end of the semester.
As a Senior in college, I am thankful every day for the opportunities I have been gifted with in the last four years. I am thankful each day that I have had the opportunity to attend college let alone be able to participate in a sorority, extra-curricular activities, and manage to be an almost always “A” student. I enjoy living on my own with my college friends and soaking up all new experiences that come my way at such a young age.
I am forced to be a very independent college student. I have had a job since high school and managed to maintain a job for my four years in college as well. I pay for all my own expenses including my college loans upon graduation. Due to this, I feel I passed on certain opportunities in my college years. I was constantly worried about my budget and bills I had. I never wanted to get my bank account “too” low and put myself in a bind that I often saw my friends doing. My friends would tell me “but its college it will be fine” “we need to have fun now this is our time”. Deep down, I knew they were right that I would regret not taking full advantage with them when I had the opportunity to do so but I was more responsible, right? It would pay off for me in the end, right?
I think since I felt like I was so hard working I could not wait until college was over. I had a job, extra-curriculars, and maintained high grades while it felt like my friends did nothing but maybe attend a 50 minute class all day. While I started work at 8am and had class until 6pm and then had extra-curricular meetings in the evenings and hours of homework to do after that. I felt I was constantly stressed and had no time for anything. I couldn’t wait to graduate because then all I had to do was work, right? I would have so much more free time after 5pm everyday. How bad could it be I was already doing longer than 8 hour days now anyway?
I was always told, by my Great Grandma specifically, that I should take every opportunity that is given to me and run with it. I can remember being a Freshman in college and going to visit her and saying how I couldn’t believe I still had three more years of school and I just needed it to be over. Her response to me would be “well sweetie, it will be over before you know it”. I can remember thinking “yeah right in three more years, that’s a lot more work”. This conversation would go on for three more years.
My Senior year schedule was easier than my previous years but I still couldn’t wait to be finished. I thought I would be less stressed once I graduated. I would be able to have a bigger income and would only have to worry about work. During my first semester of Senior year I avoided doing a lot of activities with my friends in order to save money for when I graduated. I knew I would have to move into an apartment and have a lot more added expenses to my budget. I wanted to have a little bit of savings as a cushion for myself as it would at least be needed for a down payment on an apartment and apartment furnishings. I thought I would save during first semester and have fun the second semester. The perfect, mature plan, right?
Before Spring Break, which I chose to not attend again, I thought about not walking at graduation but my roommate convinced me to order my cap and gown with her before we left. Now, I will never return to campus again, never have any “lasts” with my friends, and will never get to walk across that stage. I did not realize how important this all was to me until it was taken away.
As my cap and gown that will never be worn sits in its box, I now see how important living in the moment is. As cliché as it sounds, it actually was over before I knew it. I now see how important it is to soak up every minute of time you have with your loved ones and opportunities that are gifted to you. I should have put my responsibilities aside a little more and had fun while I had the chance. I always knew this but never really grasped the feeling of the end until it came all too suddenly. Now, with being done with college I wish I could have one more stressful day with my friends begging me to stay out late with them one last time. Although I may never get those college “lasts” I have to think that there will be spectacular “firsts” - for all of us. Every unexpected turn life gives truly does make us stronger and more prepared for the next.
We will all get through this time together, as we always do. There are brighter times ahead.