Defeating pre-Commencement depression

By Alexis Book

Opinion Editor Emeritus

 

1460 days – over 35,000 real-time hours, 120 credit hours, and not enough hours left.

Any senior will tell you that graduation is bittersweet. As the year ends and we attend award ceremonies and finish typing up assignments that have consumed our lives for so long, there is a sense of completion, pride, and relief. Of course, that never lasts long before the pang of existential dread and the “bing” noise of emails coming from student loan companies start playing ping-pong in your brain. For hours on end, I’ll find that I can’t focus on anything else other than the feeling of complete sadness that the place that I have set up fort will be invaded by a new class of freshman, blissfully unaware of just how fast the time goes.

I feel it catching up to me.

Eight months ago, I wrote an article giving advice to those same bright-eyed freshmen. I, too, at that time was unaware of how quickly everything was going to catch up to me. I felt wise, but now I just feel washed up.

It doesn’t feel like there’s any “light at the end of the tunnel.” Of course, I’m more than grateful to not have to write another essay again (or at least for a long time) and to have free time in my schedule to do more than sleep. The prospect of having more time to volunteer and to work on developing a healthier lifestyle is the only thing keeping me from flunking my senior capstone and staying here another semester.

I know that I’m not the only senior who feels this way – the dread of the end can be overwhelming. As many of my fellow student leaders know, it’s not easy to give up positions of leadership, power, and respect to go back to being the underdog again. It’s depressing.

Now, I haven’t graduated from college before, and as a previously underachieving high school student, I’m unfamiliar with leaving a place I actually feel happy at. I’m certainly no expert, but I do think that I may have the answer to escaping the dull ache of graduation: Don’t ever leave.

Of course, physically, you have to leave. I’m pretty sure maintenance will actually kick you out. But spiritually, you don’t have to go anywhere.

Just because we are leaving the halls of Canisius doesn’t mean that our values have to change or that we no longer will be surrounded by likeminded people; it just means we have to try a little harder. There may no longer be a chapel in our front yard, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop volunteering. We might not be able to go to the library whenever we want the hopes of seeing a familiar face, but we can join classes with our friends and take more walks in crowded places and shoot a text to someone we don’t really hang out with but will miss conversing with on the way to class.

The journey of learning doesn’t ever end; it just takes place in a different venue.

Some people let themselves get lost after graduation. They can’t find a career so they get comfortable in their part-time gig and lose hope of ever using their degree. They worry about losing their sense of freedom so they spend too much time in the bars and still come to college parties. They allow themselves to stop developing because they made the mistake of thinking that they peaked in college.

But we haven’t peaked yet. Our best days are still ahead of us.

It’s important to not lose touch with your curiosity. We need to stay inquisitive, stay informed, and stay warriors for justice and advancement. It’s going to be harder once we don’t have the resources of the College to help us, but we can do it.

I think one of the biggest things that I’ll miss about being in college is being a mentor to others. I’ve loved seeing freshmen blossom into roles on executive boards, and getting the opportunity to be someone’s “big” in Phi Sigma Sigma, not once but twice, has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I love helping people learn and grow and I don’t want to lose that once I’m out of college. So, I’m in the process of interviewing to be a “big sister” through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erie County. Whatever it is you love doing, identify it and find a way to continue doing it outside of school.

On that note, find something outside of school that you love and start doing it. Seriously, start doing it right this minute. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received from the counseling center was to have a hobby completely unrelated to my professional life or Canisius – something that I can continue to do when I leave school that will make me feel whole. Graduation can feel like a complete loss of identity, so it’s important to take the time now to identify pieces of yourself that you can take with you, wherever it is you may end up.

Canisius is a part of who we are now, and if we continue to live with the same values that Canisius has taught us, we won’t ever lose that part of ourselves. Our development can continue as if we were at Canisius if we hold on to what Canisius is really about anyways – it’s far more than friendships and classes and brightly-painted clubroom doors. It’s a way of life. We can still be men and women for and with others, we can still strive for magis, and we can still remember to take care of the whole person.

We can still be Canisius students, even when we leave the KAC and take our graduation gowns off.

Commencement does mean “beginning,” after all.

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