I used to look at one folder on my laptop entitled 'University' with a sense of dread, anticipating the amount of work that lay ahead that night as soon as I double-clicked it. I'm pretty organised, so all of my modules had their own folders. In my first year, there was Contemporary Poetry, Exploring Drama and Language Analysis; my second year was much of the same, but with more 'isms' and theoretical whatnots. With my third year came Dissertation, a folder which I visited more times than any other location on my desktop; I spent day and night working and reworking each paragraph of my dissertation, constantly questioning my sanity and wondering whether I should just scrap it all and start again, then realising that I only had a week left. However, the hard work paid off (I found out today that I got a 2:1 overall!), and these modules have become distant memory.
Now, I come across my 'University' folder every once in a while with a sense of nostalgia tinged with melancholy: never again will I experience the feeling of completing an essay and submitting it, then taking the whole night off to binge on Netflix before the next assignment cropped up; never again will I spend hours researching and, minutes away from giving up, discover a quote from an academic that completely clicks (so much so that I wish I'd thought of it myself); and never again will I walk through the quiet corridors of my university in the morning before the rabble arrive, smelling the aroma of
This got me thinking of a similar 'end of an era' feeling I experienced at the conclusion of my GCSEs. We were all sat on the floor in the school hall, uniforms slapdash and half drenched in sweat from the midst of the summer heat, listening to our head teacher drone on about this faraway thing called 'the future'. Of course, most of us didn't really care for this sense of ceremony and conformity - we were only 16, and more concerned with how we looked in our yearbook photos - but then a video popped up on the projector. Performed by one of my favourite directors in the 90s, with lyrics taken from an essay by Chicago Tribune columnist, Mary Schmich, this video is endlessly relevant - and my teenage self had no idea that it would become so pertinent throughout the years to come.
I have so much more to say about graduating university, the many winding paths that lay ahead, and the paths that are soon to become heartachingly nostalgic memories that will live on forever in our minds, but I think Baz Luhrmann says all that needs to be said in his wisdom-packed version of 'Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen':
To those who will graduate in one, two or three years time, here are a few little pointers that you may or may not be worrying about right now:
- It's okay if you're always under the word limit. A lot of people used to say to me that they'd always finish over the word limit and actually have to cut down their essays, then I'd feel stupid because somehow I couldn't conjure up the same quantity of text to convey my point, or I'd panic that I'd missed out something huge and grossly important. If you feel as if you've made your point in 1,000 words, that's infinitely better than 10,000 words of bullshit.
- It's okay to not know what you're going to do when you graduate. The average student probably gets asked a thousand times over the course of their uni life, 'what are you going to do with your degree?' - and it's okay to answer, 'I don't know'. It's unlikely that you're going to have enough life experience to know where you see yourself in five years time - and even if you give those enquiring aunts/uncles/family-friends/grandparents an answer, it may have completely changed come graduation. It's impossible to predict the future, so don't try to (but always aim to be the best possible 'you'!).
- It's okay if you don't 'fit in'. This isn't high school - you're all here because you want to be here. There will be bitches, and this doesn't change when you enter a career, but 99.9% of people are eager to make friends. It's an ongoing contradiction to 'be yourself' as well as 'find yourself', but it's a contradiction that will only become coherent when you stop modelling yourself on the negative opinions of other people. In the words of Baz/Mary, 'remember the compliments you receive; forget the insults'.
- It's okay if you stayed up really late