Let Me Tell You What I Think: So you’re graduating this semester, what comes next?

There are a few things I have no proof of but am almost positive are true:

1. A large majority of young Americans have taken a Spanish class sometime in their life and remember at least a few useless words.

2. Just about every American knows who Batman is.

3. Almost every graduating college senior has an “Oh s*** what do I do after graduation?” crisis in their last year of school.

In my case it would be:

4. All of the above.

I’m graduating this spring, and I cannot tell you how liberated I feel. It’s like a weight has been lifted (non-metaphorically speaking, a weight actually will be lifted when I don’t have to cart around textbooks that seem to cost an arm, a leg and several vital organs to purchase).

After four years of making class schedules, fighting with the Cashier’s Office, being given an immoral number of parking tickets and taking countless tests, I will be finished. It’s a beautiful feeling, and it’s one I happily wallowed in until reality hit me in the face.

The reality of what comes next?

Going to college is like being in a suspended reality. Many of us are in our own little world living well-structured lives for at least a couple of years in our time at UMKC. We can live, eat, study and have fun, all on or near the confines of campus. Our world isn’t babies and bills; it’s classes, friends, on-campus activities, organizations and partying.

While the immersion into the college world delusion is different for each of us, I think for most, the real world hasn’t slapped our hopes and dreams in the face. The college loans we’re accruing seem like far-off obligations, and it seems as though we have all the time in the world to figure out who we are and what we want out of life.

I think for all of us, college represents a bridge in between becoming someone and being someone. And then, the bridge ends.

As you begin to approach the other side, you wonder where this bridge has led you and what exactly is over there. You wonder if the bridge you took was worth it or if you even want its destination anymore.

Some people can’t wait to get started with a new life, yet others can’t think beyond the one they’re living now. Some have their lives after graduation mapped out, and others don’t have a clue. But regardless of one’s cartography skills, we’re all barreling into varying degrees of the unknown.

We hear so often that we are the future, but what does that mean? What a burden, and what an abstractly undefined title. In a larger, more practical way, it makes sense that we are the people who will be living on the earth as older generations pass away, but what does this concept mean on an individual level?

Regardless of who you are and how you think of yourself, you have an impact on the world. Some individuals may impact the lives of many. Others may impact just a few, but there is no judge of which is more meaningful.

A person who creates a product may convenience the lives of millions, while a mother may only impact a few people in her community. But who could ever say that inventor and that product is as meaningful to a child as its mother is?

Your grandfather was told he was the future, as was his father before that. The future can be simultaneously feared and longed for, but it cannot be avoided. It won’t be long until what was considered the future is now the present. Then, you will look in the mirror and evaluate your life.

The question is, what will you see?

As I prepare to graduate and cross that bridge into real life, I know the future holds great opportunities, but it’s not going to get a cramp from holding them in outstretched arms forever.

I have learned so much about myself at UMKC. I’ve learned to be comfortable in my own skin, to love myself and respect others. I’ve actually found a career that I’m passionate about and would do for free. I’ve learned that life is so full of ups and downs that the only way to not go crazy is with a smile and a laugh.

I’ve never met anyone who said, “I’ve become the person I’ve wanted to be and I am done trying.”

Life is a journey, and I have no idea what it holds.When I’m old and grey and look into the mirror, I want to see a person who wasn’t afraid to shoot for the stars, someone who tried her best at everything she did, laughed every single day and has the laugh lines to prove it, someone who loved as hard as she could, and is ready to do it all again tomorrow.

tsheffield@unews.com

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